Celebrating Volunteers' Week

Group photo of volunteers. Image is four separate pictures tiled to make one image, and shows the four volunteers quoted in the story.
Clockwise from top left, Leona, Niall, Denise and Sue

Published 1 June 2022

Meet some of our fantastic volunteers!

Whether helping people find their way around our hospitals, lifting the spirits of patients on our wards with a friendly smile and a chat, acting as a helping hand to staff, or helping keep our gardens looking beautiful, each performs a vital role.

This week is Volunteers’ Week, and Mandy Carliell, head of patient and public involvement, said it was the perfect opportunity to say thank you to them all.

She said: “Our volunteers are absolutely crucial to our hospitals and we would honestly be lost without them.

“They willingly give up their time for the benefit of our patients and staff and they make a real difference every single day.

“Each has their own reason for volunteering, whether it’s to make new friends or fill their time after retirement, or to help gain valuable experience for their CV.

“Whatever their motivation, they do a fantastic job and we are tremendously grateful for everything they do.”

Below, some of our volunteers explain their roles and why they enjoy being part of the East Kent Hospitals team…

“It’s an experience you can’t put a price on.”

So says Leona Jayaratne, who volunteers as a ward helper in the stroke unit at Kent and Canterbury Hospital.

Her role involves chatting to patients, encouraging them in their rehabilitation, and helping ward staff with a range of tasks, and she describes it as an honour to be part of the team.

Leona said: “I truly love the art of volunteering, which is why I am so passionate about being a ward helper.

“It has been especially important during the pandemic, where family visits are restricted, patients are vulnerable, and the hospital environment may seem intimidating. 

“As a volunteer, I have the ability to communicate and interact with patients to ease their minds off the difficulties they may be facing in their lives. 

“What motivates and inspires me the most, is seeing the patients smile when we have conversations about their past or about something they are passionate about.

“Not only do you form a connection with the patients, but you also become part of the multidisciplinary team, which is an honour in itself.

“I want to thank East Kent Hospitals for giving me this opportunity to volunteer, this is something I wish to continue in the future. It’s a holistic experience that you cannot put a price on.”

Niall Greathead has spent almost 25 years volunteering for the NHS, but originally had no intention of signing up.

He said: “I became a volunteer in the NHS through a strange incident where one of my friends dropped off an application form whilst I was on holiday, after asking me a couple of weeks previously if I would ever work for the NHS.

“I said no…however, I started on 4 February 2008 and have not looked back.
“Being involved in such a wonderful organisation has taken me on a massive journey.  I am the lead volunteer at Kent and Canterbury Hospital. I have various roles depending on what needs doing, from training new volunteers, which is a great part of my job, to listening to patients, or showing them where they need to go. You do hear some funny things when doing that!

“The best part of being a volunteer is that no two shifts are the same. It can be hectic one day and very calm the next. It's also the people you meet and the things you learn from them.”

Denise Stone spent 50 years working as a nurse – and when she retired she decided she wanted to do even more to help the NHS.

So she signed up as a volunteer with East Kent Hospitals, and now helps out on reception at the Early Pregnancy Unit at the Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother Hospital in Margate.

She said: “I volunteer as after 50 years as a registered nurse I want to give something back to the NHS, and to try to lighten the workload of my colleagues. 

“The best thing about being a volunteer for East Kent Hospitals is that my colleagues have made me feel welcome and part of the team.”

Sue Bolton joined the Trust as a volunteer after looking for something to do after retirement, and is a ward helper at the QEQM.

She said: “My daughter is a nurse and I felt like I have something to offer to support her and others like her.

“The best part of volunteering with East Kent Hospitals is feeling like I’m part of a team, and supporting the staff who are at the sharp end, hopefully making their working life just a little bit easier.

“And also giving out ice lollies to patients!”

If you are interested in joining the team, email mandy.carliell@nhs.net or complete the application form at https://www.ekhuft.nhs.uk/patients-and-visitors/members/volunteering-at-east-kent-hospitals/

We particularly need more people to greet visitors and patients and help direct them around our hospitals.