The first week of June marks Volunteer’s Week, where those who give their time, dedication and expertise to organisations are celebrated for the amazing work they do. During the pandemic, our volunteers have been invaluable – from supporting us in the hospice, volunteering remotely, or if unable to fulfil their usual volunteer role, by continuing to support us and help raise funds and awareness.

So we wanted to commemorate each and every one of our amazing volunteers and shine a light on the lifeblood of Shooting Star Children’s Hospices. Here, some of our volunteer team explain their roles and what volunteering means to them.

With her background in the NHS, and volunteering at Brigitte Trust, Chris joined Shooting Star Children’s Hospices as a volunteer counsellor. “Whilst I was working with a family who had a child with a life-limiting condition, I met the Hospice at Home team from Shooting Star Children’s Hospices and I was in awe of the work they did with the children they looked after and all the support they provided to all the family. When I left the family, I decided to volunteer for Shooting Star Children’s Hospices and with my previous experience I was invited to apply to become a volunteer counsellor. It has been difficult to see families during the lockdown. I would normally see someone at the hospice or at the family home, so we have to keep in touch by text message or phone calls. Although not ideal I know the families appreciate me just touching base and knowing that they’re not alone.”

Kate volunteers at our Fulham shop as part of the Duke of Edinburgh Award scheme, “I volunteer for Shooting Star Children’s Hospices in order to complete my 18 month volunteering period for my Gold Duke of Edinburgh Award which I started in October. At the shop I normally sort through the donations, bring them downstairs either to be steamed or put them out on display. One of my favourite tasks is to undress and redress the mannequins. The pandemic has meant that I had to stop doing my two hours a week volunteering, but instead I’m helping out by checking on the shop on Mondays to see if there are any donations outside and to check the shop hasn’t been broken into.”

David has been involved with Shooting Star Children’s Hospices for over 10 years; “As part of a team building opportunity we took part in the charity’s midnight walk. A visit was arranged to the hospice, and I have to say I was hooked from the first moment, blown away by the kindness and support that the team provided to the children and families in the local area. At the time I was running my own photographic business and in the fortunate position to offer photographic shoots as auction prizes for fundraising. Time passed and I’m now a Grandad of two wonderful, healthy children and wanted to get closer and more involved. I applied to become a volunteer photographer and what a decision that was. Over the past two years I have worked with, and met some of the most wonderful people in my life. Hospices, particularly those that involve children are imagined to be sad and unhappy places, how wrong that perception is. Both hospices are filled with fun and laughter, making such a difference to those in need. I’ve been fortunate enough to be able to photograph so many events and I’ve met kind and loving parents, with children whose character is a joy. I’m very lucky to be given the opportunity to capture those special moments. Moments that will hopefully give parents special and unique memories to treasure during difficult times ahead.

“In addition to the photography, I now look after the fish tank at Christopher’s. The children love the colour and movement and it gives everyone a laugh when I flood the floor. It goes without saying that the pandemic has had a significant effect on volunteers. Suddenly not being able to go in has been difficult, worrying about not being able to help and reading about the financial struggles the charity is now facing. Thankfully, those restrictions are now being lifted and I’ve been asked to return. Coronavirus restrictions are quite rightly in place and the fish are now coming back up to scratch. One thing that hasn’t changed is the fun and laughter; it has remained and is as strong as ever. I’m back in with the camera, and have already photographed smiling faces alongside the warmth and care of the team.

“I now get involved in many events and have become part of the volunteer forum. The whole journey, although sad at times, is one of the most rewarding things I have ever done, and I look forward to it continuing long in to the future. I have met the most wonderful people, staff, parents and especially the children. Would I recommend volunteering? Without question.”

Polly volunteers in various roles including helping by the poolside in the hydrotherapy pool and at reception. “I have three healthy and fortunate children and work in lovely school full of the same. I love working with children in my part time job, so I decided I wanted to be able to help those less fortunate at the hospice. Due to the pandemic, we stopped volunteering initially, but are now coming in to help the reduced team of staff cope, by covering reception and carrying out administrative duties. Any help we can give in the current situation is vital. It is very rewarding volunteering at the hospice, it is a very special place and everyone is so incredibly grateful.”

Michaela works as volunteer at our Cobham shop, “I was looking to change my job role and was attracted to work in retail for a complete change. I’d been interested in volunteering at a charity shop and was lucky to spot the advert in the Cobham shop prior to it opening. I’m grateful that everything slotted into place and was able to gain retail experience alongside doing some worthwhile volunteering with an excellent charity. It’s very varied which I love – sorting donations, steaming, displaying merchandise, pricing and helping customers find what they’re looking for.
It’s lovely to hear great feedback from customers and to know they are so supportive of the charity. Working together as a team in the best interest of the charity is a positive thing, everyone has something different to contribute.”

Graham, along with his wife Emma have taken on challenge events, including the London Marathon in support of us for years. It was on one of the London marathon team tours held at the hospice, where seeing the facilities, meeting the care team and supported families, Graham was inspired to become a volunteer and lend his musician talents.

“I provide fun songs sessions for the children and families staying at the hospice playing guitar and encouraging sing-a-longs to a wide range of songs. I did a session online recently to bring some upbeat live music to the hospice during lockdown. There are quite a lot of percussive instruments available at the hospice so the in-house sessions tend to get quite loud! Being able to use the power of music to lift the spirits and raise some smiles for both staff and those in their care is very rewarding. The opportunity to offer something a bit different to break the monotony of the pandemic lockdown has been a privilege. I’m only a very small part of a large volunteer team that give their time and skills to help the hospice in any way possible, especially during this challenging time.”

Nicola has been volunteering at Shooting Star Children’s Hospices in the reception for four years. “I volunteer because I have the luxury of time and Shooting Star Children’s Hospices is such a wonderful charity that I’m happy they can make the most of me. I’m delighted to ‘give something back’ in a small way. This role encompasses answering the phone and diverting calls, being the first friendly face at the front door and some general admin. Franking post to go out is quite fun, reminds me of playing post offices as a child! Badge making is another skill I’ve learnt! The recent pandemic meant for about seven weeks my regular volunteering just stopped. I have really missed going in, chatting with staff and the interaction with families. Now that we have begun to go in a little more and there’s a slightly different role to be done but I’m delighted to be back and look forward to the change of scene and company.”

Steve volunteers his time supporting the maintenance team. “I wanted a volunteer opportunity that makes a real contribution to helping others who are in need. During the pandemic, those needs still exist and the difficult financial position of Shooting Star Children’ Hospices and other charities makes volunteering an even more valuable resource. The work I do is varied and includes carrying out maintenance and repairs – a big emphasis is on the upkeep of the gardens and grounds so that those using the hospice can enjoy time outside.  It’s rewarding to know that the children and their families using the hospice can still enjoy the facilities outside in the grounds, it’s a welcome break for them.”

Melanie Hill, Head of Volunteer Development at Shooting Star Children’s Hospices said, “We are all experiencing very challenging times at the moment and I want to make sure that all our volunteers still feel appreciated for the support they give us.  Many of them are unable to fulfil their regular roles currently but have been hugely supportive in many other ways over the past few months. We miss them and look forward to welcoming them back as soon as this is possible and thanking them personally.”

Jax who volunteers on reception and at events including the Family Fun Day kindly composed a poem to express what volunteering means to her.

Making Every Moment Count

Volunteering with this charity truly is a privilege,
Shooting Star Children’s Hospices is a special place to be.
The work is always varied with no two shifts the same,
And in Reception we are often the first face that people see.

We do our very best to aid the children, families and staff
And are in awe of the amazing work that our charity colleagues do.
“Making every moment count” for the incredible young people they support,
Is simply so inspiring and a mantra that motivates us too.

We’re blessed with sponsors and fundraisers who rally for our cause,
Their efforts are invaluable, to make our future dreams come true.
We rely too on the community, their donations are essential,
So the vital services for our families and children can continue.

COVID-19 has bought us lockdown, isolation and communication challenges,
Trouble accessing services and restrictions to travelling outside.
This sadly resonates with regular life for many in our care,
Let’s remember our new found compassion and kindness on the other side.

Volunteers will have an important role to play,
As life may be very different for a while.
Adjusting to the new normal, may take some time
So we’ll carry on doing our best, supporting with a ready smile.

A huge thank you to every single one of our amazing volunteer team.