Music teacher John Young volunteers as part of the Spiritual Care team at St Margaret’s Hospice.
He and his dog Button can often be seen around the Taunton hospice, offering a friendly ear to patients and their families.
“It started because my father spent his last days here,” said John. “That was an amazing experience for us as a family. The thing I learned then was how the hospice looks after everyone, not just the patient, and I wanted to give something back.”
John began volunteering nine years ago by delivering meals and drinks to patients, going on to play music at hospice services before he joined the Spiritual Care team.
Explaining why he finds the work rewarding, he said: “I’ve always enjoyed talking to people, and working here you discover that you’ve got something to offer people.
“The big thing is listening to people. In the course of that you meet some amazing people and hear some wonderful stories from patients and their families.”
The spiritual care team, led by Revd Ann Fulton, works closely alongside the clinical teams at St Margaret’s. John and his fellow volunteers are readily available to talk to patients and families or offer prayers at the Taunton and Yeovil hospices, as well as in homes in the community.
John, 54, from Wellington, said: “You don’t know who you are going to talk to and what difference that will make to someone. I always go away from here feeling uplifted.
“Even in the sadness, there is something heart-warming. I lost my wife and both my parents to cancer, and I think that just makes me more sensitive to what people are going through.”
As a Christian, John says he feels privileged when families ask him to pray with them, but is keen to point out that spiritual care at St Margaret’s is offered to everyone, of all faiths and none.
“The support we offer is readily available to all patients and their families, as and when they need it, and we offer prayers for them all,” he said. “In talking to them, you stand alongside them. It’s a solidarity thing, somehow sharing their burden.”
John volunteers at the hospice on Tuesday mornings and at other times when needed. He enjoys being part of the community of St Margaret’s and says he feels supported in his role.
“There are always people you can talk to, and Ann is brilliant,” he said. “It’s great to be able to talk through things with her.”
He added: “I recommend volunteering at St Margaret’s to other people at any opportunity. It’s a wonderful place to be involved in.
“A while ago I was asked to describe St Margaret’s in three words. I chose ‘heaven touches earth’.
“Once your life has been touched by the hospice, it’s a lasting link.”
For more information about our Spiritual Care team, click here.