It’s Volunteers Week across the UK, celebrating the good work that volunteers do all year round. I’m a Volunteer and thought I’d share with you my experiences.
I’ve been volunteering for 12 years (Wow, has it been THAT long?!) and currently volunteer for Radio Cherwell, Oxford’s local hospital radio station, as well as the Hospital Broadcasting Association, a national charity that represents hospital broadcasting. Both roles, although media related, are completely different which offer a mix of challenges and variety but are both extremely fun organisations to volunteer for.
Let’s start with Radio Cherwell, where I’ve been volunteering for 10 years. As Oxford’s main hospital radio station, I often find myself spending time on the wards visiting patients at their bedside, collecting requests and producing entertaining programmes. Never in my wildest dreams, back when I joined in 2006, I thought I’d still be doing it today. It’s genuinely really lovely to know you’re making someone’s stay in hospital that little bit better.
Take a recent request show I did with another volunteer. We were collecting requests from the Haematology Ward. One patient in particular struck a chord with both of us. She listens to the station everyday and unfortunately isn’t going home. She was thrilled we had visited her and we spent about fifteen/twenty minutes finding out about her, what music she likes and such. She challenged us to find a song, saying we wouldn’t have it, but if we did, it would make her day. In fact, she said even us just visiting her, from the station she listens too daily, had made her day. We had the song. And its moments like that, that really make it all worthwhile.
I also do a lot more with the station behind the scenes. I’m the stations Publicity Officer as well as one of a handful of Trustees. So, in essence, I ensure we’re getting good publicity and marketing through various forms of media and manage the station’s charitable objectives. All as an unpaid volunteer.
I joined the Hospital Broadcasting Association (HBA) through an event we attended of theirs through Radio Cherwell. The HBA is the national charity that represents and supports hospital broadcasting across the country. I’m not entirely sure of the date I joined, but I’m certain it would have been around 2013, so I’ve been with them for over five years.
We don’t deal with patients at the HBA, but we do work with approximately 200-member stations who do and we, as a charity, support them through events such as our training roadshows, offer support and guidance of running a charity, broadcasting, law etc and organise our annual Conference and National Hospital Radio Awards, where the work of all hospital broadcasting volunteers across the country are celebrated.
I started at the HBA as the Home Counties Regional Rep – I was responsible for around 25 stations in the region, organising meetings, visiting them, offering support. Due to a restructure, this role quickly diminished, and I took up the role as editor of the organisations On-Air magazine, a quarterly magazine I still produce today.
I’m now the organisations Communications Executive. I lead on the design, marketing and implementation of national campaigns of HBA services, events and member/stakeholder engagement, working alongside a team of Executives who look after other sections (I.e. Member Services). I help and support three volunteers who fall under my Comms team, and together, we have substantially increased awareness of the HBA and improved various methods of our communication between our member stations and our own volunteers.
I’m also a Trustee of the HBA, so, similar to Radio Cherwell, ensure we’re meeting our charitable objects. And again, as an unpaid volunteer.
Why do I do it?
Because I enjoy it. Both charities are very different, they both have their challenges, but they’re both rewarding. I’ve gained so many skills I can transfer to my current day job and any future jobs. I can be creative, I get to meet new people and ultimately know I’m making a difference. Although there’s no monetary payment, the payment comes from those you’re making a difference too, and that’s something you can’t buy.
If you can get involved in any type of volunteering – please do. It doesn’t have to be media related like mine, you could volunteer at a local supermarket, charity shop, or hospital. But you’ll enjoy it, trust me.