Between the 8th and 14th February 2021, we are celebrating Student Volunteering Week and the wonderful students who volunteer at St Wilfrid’s. Many of the student volunteers at St Wilfrid’s are young adults, but quite often we welcome mature students who have decided to have a change in career.

Jo Laws, a Bereavement Volunteer Counsellor who is currently working towards a Diploma in Humanistic Integrative Counselling, realised that counselling was her true calling about 15 years ago. As part of her Diploma at the Wealden College of Counselling and Psychotherapy, she needed to have 150 hours of placement work and she knew straight away that she wanted to volunteer at St Wilfrid’s. She has now been here for two years.

Jo

‘I’m well over the hours required, but I have no plans to stop!’ she said. ‘St Wilfrid’s is an amazing and wonderful place. I am 47 and have done quite a lot before this and have lived in lots of different countries, including Switzerland, Spain and Sweden (where I’m from), but this is the best thing I’ve ever done.’

Jo’s role is to provide counselling to individuals who have been suffering a bereavement. As well as an initial session, the clients receive six, 50 minute sessions, free of charge. These now take place over the phone or on Zoom. 

‘Once a client has been passed on to me by my supervisor, Ella, I will contact them to arrange an initial session where we go through the contract. This is where I go through what the sessions will entail, confidentiality, and make sure that they’re happy to continue,’ she explains.

‘The sessions are completely client led and a lot of the time we don’t even talk about the person who has died. We discuss so many different problems, including anxiety, children or a loss of a job.’

As a student, Jo feels that the experience has been invaluable. ‘I’ve learnt so much,’ she said, ‘and even though I’ve only had experience as a bereavement counsellor, I’ve learnt so many transferable skills that I could take a completely different counselling route. If I could work full time at the hospice though, I’d be the happiest person in the world!’

A bereavement support session over Zoom

It’s clear just how passionate Jo is about the hospice and her work, especially when she recalls the first time that she visited the hospice:

‘Before I volunteered, I used to visit the Street Café with friends, and I always thought how nice it would be to work at the hospice. I remember when I first came to the hospice, how new, clean, fresh and modern I thought the building was. Even though it’s a medical setting, it’s never seemed clinical. The warmth of the hospice is exuberating.’

Finally, we asked Jo what she would say to other aspiring counsellors.

‘I can’t recommend volunteering at St Wilfrid’s enough. I would like aspiring counsellors to know what a great experience it is - it is so much more than bereavement support.

‘I would also like to mention the support and supervision we, as Bereavement Volunteer Counsellors, get from our wonderful supervisor Ella, Counselling Services Lead. She often checks in on us and I can always turn to her for support.’

We would like to take this opportunity to wish Jo the best of luck with her final exam in March, after which she will be a qualified counsellor!


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