When she retired from social work in 2015, Rosie Callard was looking for something worthwhile to do. She started helping on reception at our Taunton hospice before spotting an opportunity to become a volunteer with the St Margaret’s support group for patients and carers.
“I’m quite a chatty person, so when I heard about the support group I thought it sounded like me,” said Rosie. “I had done some mediation work and after retiring I didn’t want to lose my skills.”
After six weeks of training, Rosie began volunteering at the support group, which meets in the Sunflower Centre at the Taunton hospice one afternoon each week.
“It’s very rewarding and enjoyable,” said Rosie. “I always leave here feeling so much better than when I arrived. I feel very privileged that the people who come along will open up to me and talk about very personal things. It’s quite humbling.
“We often just talk about mundane things, but the group does offer one-to-one support if people want that. You can tell if somebody is unhappy and you might ask if they want a cup of tea and a chat.”
Since becoming part of the team, Rosie has seen how people who are facing a life-limiting illness benefit from spending time with fellow patients and carers.
“The support they get from each other never ceases to amaze me,” she said. “It’s absolutely wonderful. They are a very upbeat group, though naturally there is sadness sometimes. They have become friends and often meet up outside the group.”
Rosie, from North Petherton, has also realised how misconceptions about the hospice are common.
“When I tell people what I’m doing, they think it must be depressing, but it isn’t at all,” she said. “A while ago the sister of someone who had recently been diagnosed came to the group. They had never had any dealings with a hospice before and had no idea what it was like, so they asked if they could have a tour, which we arranged. They couldn’t get over the buzz around the place and the happy, smiling faces. They had been expecting doom and gloom.”
Being a good listener is an essential quality for volunteers who help at the St Margaret’s support groups in Taunton and Yeovil. But with more than 1,200 volunteers helping in a wide variety of roles across the charity, there are opportunities to get involved whatever skills and experience you bring.
“I think any volunteering in the hospice is very rewarding work,” said Rosie. “I have made friends through volunteering here, and one thing I have found is how much you feel valued as a volunteer. I would recommend it every time.”
More than 1,200 people across Somerset volunteer for St Margaret's Hospice in a wide variety of roles. For more information about volunteering opportunities, click here.