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Why I volunteer: To make people smile

Author: Leila Hawkins
12 June 2017

Sue Wright volunteers as a receptionist at Dorothy House Hospice in Bath. Here she explains how much she enjoys volunteering, particularly being able to make people feel at ease as soon as they walk through the door.

I am a volunteer on reception at Dorothy House, so my job is to sit at the desk in the main entrance and meet and greet everyone who comes to visit. This is my 11th year here but it is not my first role at Dorothy House. I volunteered many years ago as a cleaner when the hospice was converted from a private house on Bloomfield Road in Bath. I only volunteered for a few months but I have been involved with Dorothy House from that moment on.

Then there was a gap while I worked and brought up my children. When we moved back to the village of Winsley, I volunteered again, just once a week. If it is Dorothy House and you are asked to help, if you can, you do it, and I am happy to give my time.

I am very much a people person. I like meeting new people and hopefully, I can help them feel comfortable when they come through the door. All you have to do is smile, and people visibly relax. I feel lucky to be here, you see everything on reception - all spheres of the hospice. You volunteer because you want to make a difference, however small.

I remember once a couple came to visit their daughter who was a patient here. They would come a long way and they arrived looking very sad. As we were walking to the unit, the wife said to her husband: “I did not know it was going to be like this.” The atmosphere here is so friendly, so informal and not sanitised, and that counts for an awful lot. They were so happy to see their daughter here – in a hospice, admittedly, but one that feels much more like a home.  

In the years I have been here, Dorothy House has grown. While the first hospice building on Bloomfield Road was a small and intimate house, the Winsley property is much bigger yet patients still come first and foremost. It is great that the hospice is now able to help carers and families as well as patients with complementary therapies, support groups and counselling.

We as volunteers are made to feel like staff, although we are not. We are always welcomed, – it is not “them and us” - the hospice just could not manage without volunteers. We are very much appreciated.

I was a teacher by profession, then became a dental receptionist. I went to fill in for 18 months and stayed 20 years. I have a very busy life and wonderful friends and family. I do not know where the time goes!

For more information visit  Dorothy House Hospice

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