Danielle – a volunteer at the Royal Hospital for Neuro-disability

Meet Danielle, one of our volunteers here at the RHN

volunteer danielle

‘Just Throw Yourself In!’

When 22 year-old Danielle tells friends that she volunteers at a hospital for neuro-disability, they say to her ‘ooh aren’t you good for doing that!’ But she doesn’t agree.

‘I don’t really think I’m a good person for doing it, I just enjoy it’.

She applied to work at the RHN after the first year of her Psychology degree at Exeter University because she’d heard that it was a fascinating place and wanted to pick up some experience in the summer holidays. Since 2010, she has worked in Music and Singing Groups, the CD Library, Gardening and even the Cafe. She is now considering applying for a job at the RHN.

‘The atmosphere in this hospital is just so encouraging. It gives off a vibe that no matter what your disability or how bad your trauma is, we will always have some fun. It’s a nice atmosphere to walk away from because you take that way of thinking around with you. It’s a lovely environment too because you make such strong relationships with individual patients and so you want to come back each week just to see them, to make them smile, make them laugh.’

The music groups will always be her favourite because of the visible difference music makes to the patients. Danielle has seen first hand that it makes such a difference to rehabilitation to keep patient’s cognitive abilities stimulated.

‘It’s weird how patients can be so quiet and then as soon as they hear music or see you reacting to the music, they light up and smile and it’s really rewarding. The more that you do it, the more you get to know individual personalities. With one patient, she didn’t react to other people but she reacted to me and that was really nice. I felt like maybe I’d made a bit of a difference and I’ve heard that the patient now reacts to other people quite well too.’

Danielle knows from other RHN volunteers that they can sometimes feel apprehensive about what to expect from the task when they first arrive.

‘People might be scared of coming in but because the hospital is just so positive I think people will surprise themselves. It’s just a really great personal experience. People learn a lot about themselves and a lot about life. It makes you realise what you’re capable of. And what’s important.’

There are all different ages and different walks of life volunteering here – it’s just such a positive thing to do. If you’re patient and friendly, I think anyone can do it really. So I’d say – just throw yourself in!’