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Why I volunteer: The complementary therapist

Author: Anna Hawker
08 May 2017

Anna Hawker volunteers as a complementary therapist at Dorothy House in Winsley. Here she tells what she has learnt from her patients.

As a volunteer complementary therapist, I offer reiki, massage, aromatherapy and Indian head massage. I’ve been coming here for about twelve years, usually once, sometimes twice a week.

My day starts in the office, with a handover and a list of the patients I am seeing that day. They can be outpatients or inpatients. We have to be flexible as things can change - some people might not feel well enough for therapy. We are very adaptable with what we offer and the techniques we use. Hopefully, we help people choose the best treatment for them on that day, and we will talk about how they are feeling at that moment. Sometimes they will come in with a very clear idea of what they want, and as long as that is appropriate, we will go with that. It is a process.

We offer therapies to carers and bereaved people as well. That is one of the nice things about having been here a while. When I first started it was just patients. Now the service has expanded to include other people, it is more inclusive and holistic. I am also on the Complementary Therapy Steering Group Committee which is very interesting as it informs how the service develops.

I trained in complementary therapies about 25 years ago, and I have always had a strong belief in volunteering in all sorts of roles. I finished a job I was doing at a mental health charity and I had some time to offer so I came forward to volunteer at Dorothy House.

I like it here very much. I thought I would give up at 60, but I am now heading for 65 and I am not going to set a date any longer. It is lovely being part of a team when you are a complementary therapist, as you would otherwise mostly work on your own. The patients and the staff here are amazing. I have learned so much from them. They have changed my view of life, and what matters – where the priorities lie. They have taught me to let go of the little niggly things.

Most people would not imagine a hospice to be full of light and laughter, but Dorothy House is. The philosophy here is to live each day – there is a lot of support and a huge amount of expertise to help patients do that. Volunteering here is a tremendously rewarding experience.

There is a lot more training now than when I started, but it is always interesting. We need to keep up with requirements within the organisation but that is important and I really like that the organisation is so open to change.

Outside Dorothy House, I seem to keep very busy. I moved house three years ago which turned out to be a bit of a project and that takes quite a lot of my time. I enjoy singing with two community choirs, gardening, walking, my book group and playing badminton. I also have two delightful grandchildren who live nearby.

For more information visit Dorothy House

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