Brenda Evans shares her 25 year volunteering experience at the Charity

  • 28 May 2024

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Brenda has been volunteering for the Charity for over 25 years, in many volunteer roles.

She currently volunteers at the Regent Street shop, at the Retail Hub, delivering Sugarcraft making sessions in Arthur’s Shed, in the Living Well Service and has been a volunteer driver. She is also a Caring Communities volunteer and visits patients in their own homes for conversation and company.

Brenda has travelled the world, loves hiking and is learning French. She kindly explained more about her history with the Charity and her Caring Communities volunteer role.

How and why did you first get involved with the Charity?

I used to have a part-time job and when the company closed down and I was made redundant I didn’t have anything else to do. I was very particular about where I wanted to be. I had worked with a team of a dozen people and we got on very well and I didn’t want to go into a job where people weren’t nice to each other.

I was tidying my desk one day and for some reason I came across four leaflets from the Hospice. I thought, “I wonder why I kept these? It must be to do with the volunteering on the back.” So, I applied to be a volunteer.

I started volunteering at the old Hospice on Mill Road. I used to do quite a lot of roles there and especially with the day patients.

Why did you volunteer for Caring Communities? 

During COVID, it was masks and Zoom and telephone calls, which I find difficult [because I am deaf], so I had a fallow period then, apart from when I worked in the shops if they were allowed to open. I heard about the Care in Community volunteer roles and joined the Caring Communities Team.

How do you introduce yourself to new patients at the beginning?

Well, that’s made very easy by Chris [Barker], Caring Communities Coordinator, who will always visit or contact the patient first and do an assessment. Then she will write a synopsis for me so I know something about the patient.

When we’ve finished visiting a patient it gets reported back and that gets passed onto the next volunteer – so that can be quite useful as well.  The patient also is given a synopsis of who is coming to see them so that they know who’s at the door!

What does a visit look like?

Typically each visit is about an hour. If you’re having a chat with a patient and it goes on or they might be showing you something or telling you something, you don’t stop because the hour’s up. One patient I visit is not currently up for an hour of constant attention so I adjust it to what seems appropriate for her.

I have seen all of them at different times of the day depending on how their days work out. I talk to one lady about my travels as her family do some traveling, so she could talk about their travels as well.

I offer a hand massage to all of my patients and the current lady I visit is very, very appreciative of it and I think really helps her. She also reads me scriptures, or I read some to her. I am longing for a patient where we get into a story and we read a chapter a week. I love reading stories.

I feel very grateful that I am able to offer hand massage as this physical contact can enable them to open up to more serious conversations they may want to have with you. Usually, unless they’re real talkers, it does help them relax! And that’s fine. It’s whatever suits whatever person.

One of them had a model railway, and he was making a model of the HMS Victory. I am a miniaturist and I make dolls’ houses and things to go in it so, we had brilliant chats on that, and he was very helpful with tips and hints. I was really able to appreciate the work that he did on things. His late wife was a great craftswoman too, so that was really nice to hear.

Can you tell me more about the patients you have visited?

I would say every patient I’ve seen has been completely different and have different needs. I always go in open-minded because I don’t know what it’s going to be like and I need to get used to them and them to me.

I think all of them, in some way, just need to feel valued and feel that they are worthy of somebody taking the trouble to go and see them.

I have had several lady patients – one that was also called Brenda -so, we had an affinity anyway, but I knew her very well from the past. I had been a volunteer driver right from the start and I used to be her volunteer driver. She was so pleased to have me back again, so I was really pleased to see her too.

Another lovely patient was called Ron – who I had also known quite well from when his wife was visiting the Living Well Service and I was volunteering in there.

In supervision, it’s really nice hearing about patients that you’ve previously visited and how they’re getting on.

How long do you visit the patients for?

I visit somebody once a week for eight weeks. I know that I can commit to those eight weeks with whoever I am assigned, and then we can take a break or somebody else gets a turn.

There are a team of volunteers, so patients who’ve had a volunteer visit them can have different volunteer after the eight weeks sessions finish. So, they still get the benefit of having that feeling that somebody cares to go and check on them.

What difference, do you think, the service means to the patients you visit?

Out of the half dozen patients I have been visiting, all of them have been very grateful for the visits. They were always pleased to see me. They’ve all been different people but for various reasons they have really appreciated somebody going in and just chatting to them. All of them except one have lived on their own and therefore that is very, very valuable to have somebody to talk to.

One patient I know gets very frustrated. She said, “I don’t want to keep moaning all the time” and I said, “That’s fine, you can say whatever you like to me, you can get it off your chest”. I think in that situation, that’s quite helpful for her because otherwise she’s just stewing in her own frustration the rest of the day.

Up until quite recently, we used to have to phone the patient before we went, to make sure they didn’t have COVID, and they would always say then, “Yes, I’m looking forward to it, I’m looking forward to seeing you, so please do come.”

I think personally it’s a very, very valuable service.

What is your husband’s connection to the Charity?

My husband, Stuart Evans, was a Trustee and Chair of Trustees during many of the major changes at the Charity.

When I became a volunteer one of the staff said, “Would your husband like to be a Trustee?” and I said, ‘I expect he would’, so he became a Trustee then he became Chair of the Trustees.

He was instrumental in how it was not possible to refurbish the old Hospice [on Mill Road] and to go independent. We had to raise the money and build a new Hospice, which we did and here we are today!

There is a commemorative glass sculpture, ‘The Journey’, in the Bistro, which brings together the old and new Hospice with my husband’s name is on it.

A video showing how to give some one a hand massage, or how to give your self a hand massage, can be found on the webpage:

If you would like to volunteer for Arthur Rank Hospice Charity, please see the current volunteer opportunities here: