Sarah Lancaster is quite a unique Host volunteer at St Wilfrid’s. We don’t have many 17 year-olds on the Host team, and she’s probably the only Host sporting a green hair colour – although that could easily change another week.

Sarah began volunteering in January 2020 and thoroughly enjoys the role she is doing as a Host on the Inpatient Unit (IPU). She says she decided to volunteer at the hospice because she wants to go into medicine as a career; ‘I felt this would be more helpful than going around shadowing doctors; it just seemed like the right thing to do. We actually help people here.’

Unlike others her age at the hospice, Sarah is not part of the Young Clinical Volunteer (YCV) programme. She says, ‘When I applied to volunteer I was offered the opportunity to do the YCV programme, but being a Host seems more helpful. The YCV programme is only for six months and this is more permanent.’

Prior to lockdown Sarah was doing a couple of shifts a week, ‘I had a really busy college schedule; I would do either Tuesday or Wednesday evenings, from 4pm until 7.30pm and also a Saturday morning shift.’ Since the lockdown started Sarah has upped her game, sometimes doing four evening shifts a week, plus the occasional weekend shift as well. She has become one of our most experienced Host volunteers, well able to help others in the role.

I like the idea of being able to help people to be comfortable in the situation they are in, helping the families too,’ she said when we asked why she chose to volunteer at the hospice. She adds: ‘We’re providing end of life care here, so I think getting used to that will help me a lot more with my plans for a career in medicine. I like being someone the patients can look to for support.’

Sarah is not fazed by working with people who are coming to the end of their life. She says, ‘I don’t really look at people like that. I see them as people who need a bit of help or support, or company even. As Hosts we play a support role. Some patients don’t have families nearby and I think it really helps them to have people around who they can talk to.’

She really enjoys being part of the community within the hospice. ‘The other volunteers are always really nice and the nurses and doctors are always there if you need an extra hand. The patients are also generally very appreciative of what we do.’

Over the last couple of months it’s been rather different, so how does Sarah feel about the changes that had to be made? ‘Well I’m quite flexible and adaptable so it’s not really been a big thing for me.’ She adds ‘I’ve been doing more shifts of course to help out, but that’s OK too. You forget sometimes that things are different and then you see the impact on the patients of staff wearing PPE and limited visitors, it really touches you. So we have to try our best to make things more comfortable for them.

‘Wearing PPE took some getting used to; it’s really strange remembering to put everything on correctly, but you know it’s for the patients’ safety. Communication is also a little more difficult, particularly when you get a new patient. Sometimes patients can’t hear you and ask you to you’re your mask off and it’s hard to explain to them what’s going on.’

For those who thought volunteering was just something people did when they retired, Sarah has a word for those around her age. ‘We always need more people to help with the many different roles here. It also really helps with the image of people our age. I’d encourage any young person to consider volunteering; it’s something that will help you, it will improve your social skills and you’ll become part of a community of lovely people who support you when you’re down too.’ And it won’t look bad on your CV either.


If you would like to volunteer with St Wilfrid's Hospice, please visit our Volunteer pages here, or contact [email protected]