Brian started volunteering at St Wilfrid’s in 2016, just after his wife died. She had been diagnosed with terminal cancer and during her 19 months after diagnosis received 'amazing care’ from the Hospice at Home team. Brian said, 'I was so thankful for their support that I felt I wanted to give something back.’

No stranger to volunteering, Brian had volunteered with what is now the South Downs National Park for some 40 years and, until recently, chairman of East Sussex Wildlife Rescue. But even with his wide range of experience, he wasn’t sure what he might be able to do at St Wilfrid’s.

'I didn’t want direct patient contact – it was too soon after Monica’s death.’ says Brian. So he became a Van Companion, as part of the team at the Donation Centre. 'I go out on the vans with the drivers collecting and delivering to the Donation Centre and to St Wilfrid’s Community Shops,' Brian adds, 'it’s a job I love doing, we have a good laugh and the team are all great to work with.’ He can usually be found out and about on the vans on a Tuesday morning and says he enjoys the routine it provides. Apart from induction, his training comprised Lifting and Handling, 'There weren’t any exams!”

When Brian stepped down from his role with Wildlife Rescue he started thinking about what else he could do at the hospice. 'The people here are so nice to work with and there are plenty of jobs which need doing,' says Brian. He spoke to the Voluntary Services team and they suggested he consider working as a Community Support Volunteer, offering support and companionship to people in the community living with life-limiting conditions.

Having completed his training 'Again, no exams!', Brian was paired up with a housebound patient to provide a support service to his wife. 'He has two female carers in the morning and two in the evening and his wife, so he’s surrounded by ladies,' says Brian. 'I’m able to give him some ‘bloke’ time.

'I go and see him every other week and spend a couple of hours with him, or whatever is required; this allows his wife some time to herself and gives them both a break. He’s got a good long term memory and we chat about all sorts of stuff, Eastbourne history and the town, Rugby Union and the like – but certainly not politics. It’s not difficult or skilled; I just spend time giving him some male company.'

What does Brian get out of his volunteering role? 'I think it’s the feeling that you’ve helped somebody, him of course, but especially his wife who is very grateful for a break and maybe just time to do some shopping... it’s very tiring being a carer and she gets tired, but I really do think I get back more than I give and it’s not a difficult job.'

And what would Brian’s message be to others who aren’t sure about volunteering? 'Well, there are so many roles you can do that if you find something doesn’t suit you there are plenty of other opportunities – something for everyone.'

If you’d like to find out more and perhaps join Brian and the hundreds of other volunteers, contact the Voluntary Services team at [email protected] or call 01323 434205.