I had the pleasure of chatting to Patricia Hicks-Harris who is one of the volunteer team at the Maggie’s Centre in St Bart’s Hospital, London. Here, Patricia tells us about how enriching and inspiring the experience has been for her.
What is your role at Maggies and what duties does that entail?
Kitchen table, and administration – this entails welcoming visitors, making refreshments, showing visitors around and explaining the programmes that are available. Administratively, I support in whatever capacity is required.
What motivated you to volunteer?
I came to Maggie’s as a volunteer by chance, and after reading the application form hoped my career and life experiences might be useful.
Lots of people are put off volunteering because they think it might be a long and complicated recruitment process. How was it at Maggie’s?
I think the recruitment process was straightforward, and all the Maggie’s staff were so welcoming.
What type of support/training did you receive?
My induction included shadowing a volunteer, so I understood the role fully, discussions with members of staff and also some useful hand-outs.
What is your time commitment on a weekly or monthly basis?
Prior to the pandemic, I tended to do 2-3 days a week. Some volunteers do less than this and there is no pressure to take on more hours than you can manage.
What do you get out of the experience of volunteering? How does it make you feel?
At Maggie’s Barts I have met, known and am in contact with very many remarkable people. I had some idea what to expect having worked as a senior medical secretary, and a volunteer in other charities. What I did not anticipate was that it would be such a joyful life-enhancing experience.
What did you learn from the experience and did it change your opinion about anything?
I learned that ‘Visitor’ means treating everyone who comes to Maggie’s with equal consideration, and the importance of Maggie Keswick’s advice that we mustn’t lose the joy of living in the fear of dying.
Has volunteering for Maggie’s changed because of Coronavirus?
I have not been to Maggie’s Barts since the beginning of the year. However, staff have kept in touch, and I am currently working with them on an on-line administrative project. There is still plenty that can be done to help even when we can’t be face to face.