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“When I saw how well my friend was cared for, I just felt the need to give something back.”: Polly’s volunteering journey

31 May 2022
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“I really care about the work I do whether I am in a muddy field fundraising or supporting people at home, I feel very privileged to volunteer and it’s an honour to be in this position.”

Polly Patel, a long-time supporter of the hospice, is one of our vital Support At Home volunteers. Polly, who lives nearby in Birmingham, started volunteering after her close friend was cared for at Birmingham St Mary’s Hospice and has been with us for nearly seven years in many different volunteering roles.

Our Support At Home service provides patients with the chance to chat to one of our friendly volunteers for an hour or so each week, and give carers or loved ones some respite during that time. Polly said she loves being invited into people’s homes and having the opportunity to brighten their day with a quick natter and a cup of tea.

Having been with the charity for around seven years, Polly has also helped out as a volunteer ambassador, and at numerous fundraising events including Rugby Ramble, Chocolate 5k and the Jingle Bell Jog.

One of her main roles is also as a volunteer for Support At Home – Polly visits patients once a week, and during the COVID-19 pandemic instead called them on the telephone, to support them wherever is needed.

“After being an ambassador, I felt like I wanted to do something that was more face to face,” Polly said. “So Support At Home was perfect.

“Support At Home consists of face to face visits with hospice clients receiving end of life care. It can be anyone of any age or condition. I had a background in this sort of work, and had previously worked with children and people with complex needs so was well equipped for the job.

“As part of the role, I go to a patient’s house, spend an hour or a little longer just having a chat. It often meant the partner or carer could have a bit of respite that day – go out shopping or to an exercise class, without worrying.”

She added: “Sometimes, we would talk about absolutely anything – it could be what was on TV, gardening or we might play some games.

“If they wanted to talk about their condition, they could do so without their family or loved ones around.”

Polly’s journey with the charity began when one of her close friends was staying at Birmingham St Mary’s Hospice, and she would visit her. Polly felt she wanted to give something back after seeing the wonderful care administered by hospice staff.

“When I saw how well my friend was cared for, I just felt the need to give something back,” she explained.

“I went on the website to look at any volunteering positions available. I had experience going out and about doing presentations, so I was interested in the ambassador roles as I just wanted to help get the message out there really and raise awareness.”

Polly’s drive for volunteering began seven years ago after her bereavement had a big impact on her.

She said: “I do feel very privileged to do this and be in this position. Going into someone’s home is a real honour and it’s a privilege to speak to them and have the chance to help them, or at least brighten their day a bit.

“I really encourage people to just do it – get involved in volunteering. It makes a massive difference whether you are making a cup of tea for someone or doing an event for an hour or so.

“It still has a positive impact. I find volunteering very rewarding and humbling.

“I am very much a people person. For me, it’s a privilege to meet these people and be a part of their life. In these conversations, you can tell what they are feeling and saying is coming from the heart. I am so grateful to be part of it.

“I really care about the work I do whether I am in a muddy field fundraising or supporting people at home, it’s also a great way to make new friends and meet new people.”

To find out more about Support At Home visit www.birminghamhospice.org.uk/support-at-home/ or for more volunteering opportunities, visit www.birminghamhospice.org.uk/volunteers/.