Every year we like to recognise and show our appreciation to the volunteers at Rowcroft. As last week was nationally run Volunteer Awareness Week (VAW), we felt it was only necessary that we got into the spirit of things and told people across our social media platforms how much we appreciate their help, so in case you missed it, here are a few of the amazing volunteer stories that we highlighted during VAW.
There are almost 450 people, male and female and between the ages of 16 - 90, who help out in some way for the hospice, saving us approximately £400,000 every year - that's the equivalent of 45,600 hours of work! Without this amazing amount of time and money we simply would not be able to provide the level of care we do today.
Within the hospice itself, there are 104 hospitality volunteers who serve meals and refreshments to patients and visitors seven days a week, 365 days a year. Last year alone, they made over 31,000 cups of tea and coffee for patients and their loved ones!
Filip Suszczynski, 17, is a student from Torquay Boys Grammar School. He volunteers at Rowcroft because he's considering a career path in medicine. When speaking of his time spent here, he says: "It's a good feeling knowing you're making a positive difference to someone's life, especially when it's such an enjoyable environment to help out in."
Hospitality volunteers, such as Filip, are valued on the wards as they help to bring the outside world in. Volunteer musicians also come and play on the wards, helping to create a calming and friendly environment. There is a young girl who plays the harp, a guitarist, a man who plays the fiddle and a gentleman who plays requests on the organ. Some patients also like to sit in our landscaped gardens and take in the scenery; something that would not be possible without the work of our gardening volunteers, who have transformed the gardens into a place of serenity.
If it wasn't for our transport volunteers, many outpatients would not be able to attend appointments and many family members would not be able to visit their loved ones on the ward. Their work is extremely important - it brings people together and helps those who cannot drive themselves.
Colin Harrop, 68, has been volunteering as a driver for 11 years, he says: "It's such a satisfying feeling knowing you're helping people from different situations. You may be helping in a small way, but I still find it incredibly satisfying that I'm doing something to help others."
Our reception volunteers play a vital role in keeping the hospice running. We have people who help out on the main Inpatient Unit reception, as well as in our Outpatient Centre and Rainbow House offices.
Irene Harper, 71, has been helping out at Rowcroft for eight years now, and says: "My husband was treated here and was extremely well looked after. I wanted to give something back as I was also given a lot of support during his time here. I began volunteering at the hospice because I think it helps me being here, knowing that I'm helping others."
Alongside family members and students, who are in their own way looking to give something back, we have a fleet of complementary therapists that work both on the wards and with our Hospice at Home programme. Therapies are open to both patients and loved ones, to help relieve them of stress and anxiety.
Rod Wills, 64, has been visiting people in their homes for four years and has become very passionate about helping people: "Every time I go out to represent Rowcroft on a home visit I like to give my time freely for as long as it's required, remembering at all times I'm there for the patient or carer's benefit. If I can bring an hour or so of stress relief and leave them peaceful, I know I've done my job and that is the only reward I want."
Caroline Redfearn, 68, is a facial reflexology and holistic therapist that visits the ward for four hours once a week. She decided to start volunteering because: "I've been a practitioner for over 22 years now and I felt it was time to start giving something back. I have treated some wonderful people who are going through some really difficult times in their lives - it's nice to help them totally relax."
It is services like these, along with the music therapy, gardeners, drivers and hospitality volunteers, who enable the patients to feel both relaxed and comfortable.
It's not just volunteers who deal directly with patients that have a huge effect on the hospice.
As you may or may not know, we have 13 shops spread out across South Devon with around 232 volunteers, saving the hospice almost £17,000 a month.
Cynthia Stotereau, 80, volunteers at our Torquay shop. She says: "I knew when I stopped work I couldn't sit at home doing nothing. I've been here 10 years now; I love Rowcroft and thrive on being around people."
Sharon Mizen, 38, also helps out in our Teignmouth shop, but for a completely different reason: "I have lymphedema in my legs and feet and receive treatment at Rowcroft. So helping here is my way of giving something back for the help I receive. I help out for half a day, three days a week, but will do extra if I am needed. It's a very enjoyable environment to be in."
Gilli Woodage, our Voluntary Services Co-ordinator, has been working for Rowcroft for seven years. None of these roles would have been successfully implemented if it wasn't for her co-ordination and management of the volunteers.
Gilli says: "The bottom line is, all of our volunteers save the hospice a fortune and without this help, we would not be able to stay open. The salary they save in one year takes an incredible amount of pressure off the fundraising department who already have a difficult job.
"Together the volunteers create a friendly environment for patients and their families. They help to bring the outside world in, enabling patients to speak to 'real' people, not just doctors and nurses."
Some of Rowcroft's volunteers help out for experience - we currently have 33 work experience volunteers aged 16-18 who wish to pursue a medical career - but for others, volunteering is a chance to give something back for the care and support their loved ones received while at the hospice. Some people might be at a cross roads in life, or have been out of work for some time and want to gain confidence before getting back into the working world. No matter what they do or have done, however long a volunteer spends at Rowcroft, we are forever grateful for their time and care.