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Why I volunteer - spreading Christmas cheer

Author: Phil Smith
18 December 2017

Phil Smith has been a Volunteer Hospitality Assistant at St Catherine’s Hospice in Crawley since October 2015. Here, he shares why he is giving up his Christmas Day to support his local hospice.

St Catherine’s is a very special place for me and my four children. My wife Sue was cared for by the hospice and died at St Catherine's six years ago. During that time, we experienced first hand the warmth and care of all the staff and volunteers. My family was enveloped by love and the place is very dear to us – we will be connected to the hospice forever.  

I knew I wanted to give something back to the hospice and the people in it but I was not ready straight after Sue died. After a while though, the time was right and I joined as a Volunteer Hospitality Assistant.

I wanted to do my bit to help the hospice at Christmas so I have decided to volunteer on Christmas Day. If I can add some cheer for patients and their families on Christmas morning then that is great. It makes me feel really good to do something to help although my kids think one of the reasons I am volunteering is to get out of peeling the potatoes (there could be some truth in that!)

For me Christmas is a special time, a time to consider others but at St Catherine’s it is like Christmas everyday because the staff and volunteers are always giving to others.

Christmas morning I will be volunteering in the kitchen, helping with general duties like washing up, tidying and sorting. I will then take jugs of iced water to patients on the wards, and later during my shift make cups of tea and coffee for patients and visiting family and friends.  

It might sound odd but there is such a lovely feeling in the hospice on Christmas Day. Everyone is happy and jolly, and it is a wonderful atmosphere - we have fun.  I think people are often surprised at how happy it actually is. The upbeat, positive atmosphere helps to support patients’ families at what can be a very difficult time. Sometimes my friends ask ‘isn’t it hard for you?’ but I can honestly say I get a proper buzz from volunteering.

Coming to St Catherine's when I am having a bad day with my own worries or stresses puts everything into perspective and I think to myself how lucky I am. Is that a selfish reason to volunteer? Maybe, but that is how I feel. The people at St Catherine’s inspire me and if I can come in, do my little bit and know I am helping, then that suits me fine.

I cannot imagine my life without St Catherine’s and I feel very lucky to be a part of it. Volunteering is the highlight of my week and the staff team, without exception, are wonderful.  We laugh and have fun. When I come in I try to make other people happy as I want to help and care for others the way my wife Sue, my children and I have been cared for.

If you are reading and thinking of volunteering, I would say go for it! It is a great experience for such a worthy cause.  I know Sue would have wanted me to give something back and I am pleased to have the opportunity to do that.

For more information visit St Catherine’s Hospice

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