Brothers, Nour and Najm Karkach, have both volunteered at St Wilfrid’s over the last five years; Nour was part of the first cohort of Young Clinical Volunteers in 2017 and has now gone on to university, while Najm began the YCV programme in 2019 and has continued to volunteer on the Inpatient Unit throughout the pandemic. Also, in an interesting twist of fate, during our 40th Anniversary Year, the boys’ combined ages (Nour – 22, Najm – 18) will add up to 40!  

Nour first began volunteering when he started college to help him gain practical experience in a healthcare setting. After the six-month YCV programme, he continued to volunteer as a Host and made such an impression that in November 2017, he won Hospice UK’s Young Volunteer of the Year award.

Nour (middle left) at the Hospice UK 2017 awards

Four years on and Nour is now studying Pharmacy at the University of Brighton. We asked him how volunteering has benefitted his higher education:

‘My time at the hospice taught me a range of different things that I use day-to-day at university and in my job at a pharmacy, such as how to work in a patient-centred way, how to communicate effectively with patients and how to work well as a team. I’m planning to study Medicine at postgraduate level, so all of the clinical skills I learnt will help me even more.’

Aspirations to study Medicine run in the family, as this is an area that Najm would also like to study after his A Levels. Like Nour, he first became a volunteer for work experience and to see whether he really wanted a career in healthcare. He enjoys volunteering at the hospice so much that he is still here 12 months after his YCV programme finished and now aspires to become a Palliative Medicine Consultant.

Najm

His role involves assisting the Healthcare Assistants and Nurses in delivering personal care to the patients, helping them have a shower, giving them a bed bath, or just sitting and talking to them. With this also comes supporting the patients’ families.

He said: ‘Volunteering has shown me the importance of the HCAs and the Nurses. They are the people who see the patients the most and without them the Doctors wouldn't be able to make informed decisions.’

As Najm continues to volunteer at St Wilfrid’s, he has experienced how the pandemic has affected the hospice first-hand. He has taken this challenge in his stride though and sees it more as learning curve, and a break from his A Levels.

‘Working through the Covid-19 pandemic has shown me the importance of teamwork and keeping morale high during a time when no one knew what to expect or when it was going to end,’ he said. ‘Learning to work while wearing PPE was challenging – physically, but also in finding a way to continue to communicate kindness. This became through actions rather than words. I am now able to smile with my eyes!

‘The pandemic started when I was five months into Year 12, so the majority of my A Level course has been home learning, which is extremely difficult and stressful,’ he explained, ‘my regular shifts at St Wilfrid’s have given me something to look forward to.’

Finally, we asked both Nour and Najm why they think it’s important for young people to volunteer and what advice they have for those considering volunteering.

Najm said: ‘I think it is very important. My generation are very goal driven, but also tend to be very narrow minded (myself included before I started as a volunteer). I think that all young people should be made aware of the needs of others and should volunteer, maybe as part of the PSHEE curriculum. It would help them to be aware of others and be grateful for what they have. Helping people is very rewarding and makes you feel proud of yourself.’

‘You don’t know what it will be like until you try it,’ Nour added.


As we come to the end of Student Volunteering Week 2021, we would like to thank all our student volunteers. Whether their role is patient or community facing, their compassionate and proactive approach is just as beneficial to the hospice as it is to them and helps us to ensure that no-one in our community dies alone, afraid or in pain. The past 40 years wouldn’t have been possible without any of our volunteers and we hope we can continue to celebrate them for the next 40 years and beyond!

If you would like to volunteer for St Wilfrid’s Hospice, please contact our Voluntary Services team via email at: [email protected]