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Why I volunteer: “To regain my confidence”

Author: Jeff Stokes
06 November 2017

Jeff Stokes had to retire early after being diagnosed with head and neck cancer. Following aggressive treatment that left him hospitalised for a long time he became free from cancer, but was left feeling depressed at having left his job. Here he explains how volunteering at Hospiscare in Exeter has given him a new sense of purpose.

I lost all my confidence, self-worth and self-assurance, I went from being busy and active to doing nothing.  I was so ill at the time that I was actually referred to day services at Hospiscare.  This was my first contact with the charity.  However I was lucky, the treatments I had did work and the cancer has now gone.  But I was left with depression and was asking myself what is there to do now?

As my health improved I started to look into volunteering for a charity.  Hospiscare was one of the first places I approached.  Originally I was interested in a caring role, maybe as a driver or helping out on the ward.  But at the time I applied those roles were filled, so they suggested I had a look at volunteer vacancies in their Warehouse Shop over at Marsh Barton.

Offering to help there had not really crossed my mind, but when I went over I was amazed at how much was going on.  I discovered the E-Commerce department where they sell donations online on Amazon and eBay and I have not looked back since.

I started off with simple tasks listing basic items on eBay, and popped in once a week on a Wednesday for three hours.  As my confidence grew I started to really enjoy it!  So I extended my hours to seven and started throwing in some Fridays too.  Now I have moved on from the simple stuff and I list all items on eBay.

I have a real interest in aviation and antiques so the team aim to put those sort of products aside for me so I can photograph and list them when I come in.  I get great pleasure from researching how much something is worth and I love display and photography so it is an ideal role for me.  You also get the thrill of the unknown as you never know what people will donate, it is a fun and fascinating job.

Before I started volunteering with the E-Commerce team I was unsure of meeting new people.  I should not have worried, the team I work with are a great bunch. So friendly, driven and grateful for my help.  They always thank me at the end of the day and they have become friends.  We go out for meals, walks, quiz nights and bowling, so my social life has been enhanced as well.

I know Hospiscare are always in need of more volunteers, so I would really like to say to anyone out there who may have gone through a difficult time – join us! Do not hesitate.  You do not have to be an expert.  Hospiscare will support and train you in your volunteer role.  Do not think for a minute you will not be good enough, the organisation needs you. 

My life would be very different if I did not volunteer here. I really thank Hospiscare for giving me this opportunity.  It has dug me out of depression and I have met a lot of new friends.  After a day’s volunteering when I walk home I have a sense of wellbeing, like I have done something, and it feels really good.

For more information visit Hospiscare

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