Rachel – a volunteer at the Royal Hospital for Neuro-disability
Rachel tells us why she volunteers here at the RHN
Rachel is the first to admit she had preconceived ideas of what it would be like to volunteer at the RHN, but once she started, she found her expectations couldn’t have been further from the truth,
“I thought the atmosphere would be depressing, but it’s not. It’s fun, I’m constantly surprised by the people, and no day is ever the same.”
After 15 years of working in an investment bank, Rachel was ready to leave. The hours and stress had ground her down, so when the financial crisis began she put her hand up and got out in the first wave of redundancies.
“Financially, I didn’t need to work, so I spent the first 18 months doing things I had always wanted to do, like learning golf, going to the gym, and playing tennis. It was great at first, but having no real responsibility made me feel quite empty; and that’s when I realised I wanted to do something worthwhile.”
Rachel decided she would become a volunteer, and not one to do things by halves, she signed up with a number of different charities, including the RHN.
“One of the activities available to the residents here is gardening – it’s not something I have any real expertise in it, but I enjoy it, and come every week to help one of the residents – Barbara – with her gardening sessions.”
Being knowledgeable in the field you volunteer in isn’t always necessary; and, as Rachel vouches, it isn’t her green fingers that make the real difference to patients here.
“At a basic level, I help Barbara with planting. But volunteering is about more than just helping with an activity. It’s about companionship; it’s about opening a window to the world. Barbara loves to hear what’s going on in my life – from the shows I’ve been to, to where I’m going on holiday, she wants to hear everything.”
“I also visit Richard once a week and read to him. He’s got a scientific background so I read National Geographic and New Scientist. I am bringing that part of his old life back to him, and allowing him to enjoy things that he always has.”
While Rachel volunteers here, she certainly doesn’t underplay the importance of what she is doing.
“I have a sense of duty, because I am making a very real difference, albeit in a small way. Things that we take for granted make an enormous difference to those people who call the RHN their home.”
“People are genuinely grateful that you come to see them. And knowing that you have enabled them to do something they wouldn’t have been able to do if you weren’t there, is not just incredibly gratifying but can also have a huge impact on the person you visit.”