Volunteering at hospice has made me enjoy the little things in life

Ella Vanderhook

Ella Vanderhook, 18, received a Gold Star Award from the Jack Petchey Foundation in recognition of her volunteering work on the ward at Saint Francis Hospice. - Credit: Saint Francis Hospice

I am currently a student in Year 13 at Brentwood Ursuline Convent School and I chose to become a ward assistant at Saint Francis Hospice for the Volunteering Section of my Gold Duke of Edinburgh Award.

I started in August 2019 but I had to take a break in March last year due to Covid-19 restrictions. I was able to return on September 14 but sadly I had to take another break at the end of November when we went into lockdown again.

I enjoy the role as it allows me to chat to the patients and their families. I get to know them and I love listening to the inspirational stories from their journeys through life. I feel like we are part of the Saint Francis Hospice family.

My main duties are taking the patients’ orders for dinner, delivering fresh water jugs, and preparing the dinner trays for the kitchen staff to give the patients their dinner. My final duty is to give all the patients tea, coffee and the cake of the day.

I had the opportunity to volunteer at the hospice’ fundraising event, Frankie’s Classic Car Fest and Vintage Market in September 2019. I was working as a car park marshall collecting the entrance money with a lovely group of volunteers and an amazing amount of money was raised to help fund the care to local patients that day.

Volunteering at Saint Francis Hospice has been an amazing and enlightening experience. I am well supported and valued and I have made some new friends and learned new skills. I also believe that it has made me stop and enjoy the little things in life and appreciate the value of time.

The benefit of engaging in this type of community service is that you’re making a difference where you live. Volunteering gives me the chance to contribute to the kind of community and world that I want to live in every day.

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I am leaving school this summer and my experience has also boosted my CV. I have added it to the volunteering section on my LinkedIn profile as well as my Gold Duke of Edinburgh’s Award.

Most importantly, I hope I’ve made a difference to those I have helped whether that is the patient or their family.