Helen and Keith’s Volunteer Story

How did you find out about volunteering?

We moved to the area three years and were very involved in the community where we used to live. As we are retired, we felt volunteering was a good way to meet new people. We heard about the Kirkwood and thought it would be worth exploring volunteering with them. We made an appointment to go and speak with their Volunteer Co-ordinator, who was inspirational,  and we decided we would like to support the charity.  It was clear from the start that the Kirkwood wasn’t just a place but was a community, comprising of patients and their families, staff and volunteers and we were made to feel very welcome.

What type of activities do you usually do when you volunteer ?

We decided to allocate one day a week to the Kirkwood and began volunteering in the inpatient unit as ‘Patient Enabling Volunteers’.

After receiving training, we would visit the hospice in Dalton and speak with the patients and explore what would help them get the most out of their stay at the hospice. It might be something as simple as accessing some knitting needles and wool, finding a jigsaw, nipping out to the newsagents to get their favourite magazine, or playing dominoes. Sometimes we helped to organise more out of the ordinary requests (with the relevant permissions and if it is safe and appropriate). For example, one patient was terribly missing her cat that she hadn’t seen for six weeks, so we managed to arrange for her relative to bring the cat in. It was lovely to see the cat sat there like the Queen of Sheba! Another gentleman simply missed going out for a pub lunch, so this was duly arranged.

We also took on extra training to become Volunteer Befrienders and have been visiting people in their own home or out and about, who are socially isolated.

We are also Ambassadors for the Kirkwood which has involved delivering talks to organisations like University of 3rd Age and  Probus etc. The talks involve raising awareness of the hospice and sharing our volunteering experience. I think some people think we are going to ask them for money, but is more about spreading the message of the great work of the Kirkwood.

How has your volunteer role changed ?

Due to Covid, the visiting arrangements have changed and the Kirkwood must now keep as many people as possible away from the hospice building.

As a result, our volunteer roles have developed and we have now become telephone befrienders. We each have 3 ‘befriendees’ we engage with regularly who live on their own and are socially isolated.  Befriending is interesting because although it is a structured arrangement, the person becomes your friend and we are getting as much out of it as they are.

What do you like about your Volunteer role?

We have met some wonderful people through Kirkwood, for example one elderly patient would read poems out to me, she was very creative and was always doing things that energised her. I still have the last poem that she wrote about Kirkwood in her handwriting which was a privilege.

How has volunteering made a difference to you?

Kirkwood has become our community and we know lots of people there and feel a part of something. When we were visiting every Wednesday, we structured our week around it, and we hope we can return again. On a very personal level, life could pass you by without these engagements we have had- volunteering has been emotionally rewarding and mutually beneficial. Because of the way the Kirkwood values and welcomes volunteers you do very quickly get a sense of being part of a friendly community.

To find out more about The Kirkwood and how you can be involved visit:

You can view current Volunteer roles with The Kirkwood on our website.


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