This week, Monday 1st – Sunday 7th June, is National Volunteers’ Week. Throughout the week we will be celebrating our wonderful volunteers, both on our blog and on our social media, and today we will be starting the celebrations off by shining a spotlight on one of our volunteers, Gill Siggs.

Gill has been part of the Volunteer team at St Wilfrid’s for over ten years. She began her time here as part of the Hosting team at Mill Gap Road before transferring to the new site in Broadwater Way. About three years ago Gill was seconded to the Community Support Volunteer (CSV) team, a role she says she really loves. However, when lockdown started and CSV’s were no longer able to visit people in their homes, Gill returned to support the host team in the hospice.

Gill explains a little more: ‘As a CSV I would normally visit patients - I like to call them friends – in their homes, but since lockdown that hasn’t been possible. I visit two ladies, one I’ve been seeing for nearly three years, but as I can’t see them at the moment I came back to hosting.’

How did Gill feel about returning to a role she knew well, but in different circumstances?

‘I was actually quite nervous and apprehensive about coming back in case there had been a lot of changes; there hadn’t, apart from the area which was set up for isolation.

‘The main difference for hosts now is that we, like all the staff on IPU, have to wear PPE (apron, mask and gloves) as all patients are being shielded against the virus.'

Does it ever worry Gill working with patients in isolation?

‘Not at all, it feels completely safe. Doing what we do is nothing like being a nurse. As hosts we always work together as a pair, which helps as we are able to look after one another as well. There’s no time pressure; we have plenty of time to put PPE on and take it off without rushing and also have time with the patients where needed.’

One of the important roles hosts play, besides serving meals and drinks, is spending time with the patients who are not in isolation, chatting, listening and providing company. This has been extremely important in recent weeks while the number of visitors allowed has been restricted. Patients can feel lonely and Gill says that having the opportunity to spend time with them is very much appreciated by patients.

‘The sad thing is that most of the patients are quite poorly and because we have to wear masks in the rooms some patients find it hard to communicate. It requires a lot of eye contact and speaking very clearly and slowly. It probably feels quite strange to them in some ways.’

Gill has been a volunteer both in the hospice and in the community, but what does she enjoy about being a volunteer?

‘Oh gosh, there’s so much! I enjoy being able to forget about things and just concentrate on what’s going on here. It’s just so rewarding to feel you are helping others in some small way. I feel I get more out of what I do than I give, especially visiting people in their own home. I feel very privileged to do what I do; I look forward to seeing them when I visit – they’re like friends.’

Volunteers are vital to the work of St Wilfrid’s and people like Gill are very important to the patients and the staff. There are always opportunities to join the team and Gill has some encouraging words for those who might be unsure whether this is something they could do.

‘Just give it try. I am a very emotional person – I cry at adverts - and I wasn’t sure I’d be able to cope volunteering in a hospice, but I have. I couldn’t recommend it highly enough. Everyone here is so supportive and it is so rewarding.’

If you are interested in volunteering, please drop our Volunteering team and email at [email protected]