From ward volunteer to trustee

Ranjita Sen (cropped)
Written by: Ranjita Sen

I'd always been involved in some form of charity or voluntary work from school days. With SFH, it was not really through any personal ties to the place, but soon after we moved to the area, my neighbour, whose husband was so well looked after by the hospice during his illness, started gifting us with a hospice calendar every Christmas.

We've almost got reliant on and still look forward to our neighbour's kind gift of the calendar every Christmas and it is through chatting with her that I came to know more about the work of the hospice and had somehow built up a really nice picture of the warmth in the organisation.

As my son got older and was almost completing his GCSEs, I judged that would be a good time to start thinking about turning my wish in to reality, so I contacted volunteer services. Within days of making contact I completed all the necessary paperwork, and once trained by an extremely helpful fellow volunteer, I was working reception shifts and manning the hospice shop one Sunday evening a month.

Sunday's are generally a quiet shift, but I got to know many other volunteers during handovers and even attended social gatherings with them, but importantly I became closer and closer to the mission for the organisation - that is to help people live with dignity. It was almost as though the picture I had built up of this warm place was starting to come into existence!

I witnessed sadness at times, but this was equally balanced by witnessing such warmth and dedication in the ward/hospice at home staff caring for patients and wellbeing of families at such a difficult stage.

At times I would walk away from the shift thinking of the challenging times these families must be facing, but somehow that would almost immediately be balanced by a rush of pleasant thoughts derived from knowing how much the hospice is doing to support these families, both inside and outside the setting.

Over time, I wanted to get even closer to the hub of activity, the ward, and that's when I approached the volunteer services management again expressing interest in moving on to the ward duties - again a one Sunday a month shift.

At the same time, I also noticed an opportunity and applied and was offered a governance committee adviser role - which I did not hesitate to accept. It was one way of extending my support to the hospice strategically and equally an opportunity to put some of my professional skills (from working in the NHS for the last 16 years) to use in a another healthcare related setting.
I feel really privileged to be in a position to be able to contribute to an organisation both operationally and strategically and becoming a Trustee earlier this year fulfilled my ultimate goal towards my involvement with the voluntary sector.

I owe a lot to the NHS for my own personal and professional development and what better way to extend that learning then to apply it where relevant a local charity-based organisation. I can contribute to my voluntary duties quite seamlessly around the tight schedule I have in the NHS.

There is quite a lot of expectation to deliver at pace in the NHS right now as a result of reforming and recovering from the pandemic, however, the hospice is also in equally testing times. The organisation is very organised with its paperwork, meeting dates and committee papers which makes it all extremely easy to plan around. I'm also really looking forward to carrying out a Trustee visit to a local shop just before Xmas and expanding my knowledge of the hospice in the retail setting.

Covid has changed the way we work in many settings and the NHS and the hospice are no exception to the rule.

Even my Sunday shift has become a little more restricted with the need to maintain distance, wear protection and generally keep a safe distance from the patients. However, that has not meant that I cannot stop to have a chat with patients or fulfil the tasks that I normally carry out on the ward.

It is a testing time for all organisations in this sector - but I am sure with good leadership, innovative initiatives and staff support, the hospice will rise above what we hope are temporary pressures and continue to thrive in continuing its duties for the local community and beyond.

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