I began volunteering in 2006 with local hospital radio station, Radio Cherwell. In 2013, I joined national charity, the Hospital Broadcasting Association (HBA) as a volunteer to give even more back and I still volunteer now, some thirteen years later.
I love volunteering. In my roles at Radio Cherwell, I have been able to gain life experiences and fun experiences that I would never have got, had I not been a volunteer. One of the highlights is volunteering for May Morning, being a part of the initial set up the night before, that the local public to Oxford aren’t aware of, is something quite special. But of course, the ultimate form of specialness from my time volunteering at Radio Cherwell is knowing you’ve spent time with patients, some of whom have no visitors all day, perhaps even for several days, and you’ve made a small difference to their stay in hospital.
Because you see, while those who volunteer in hospital radio aren’t medically trained (unless if it’s their day job), they are trained to bring a smile to patients at the bedside, bring a small dose of light relief and make you forget you’re worries. You find out the most amazing stories and share the most amazing laughs with some patients. You meet people from all walks of life and no person is ever the same. Volunteering for hospital radio is certainly a unique and empowering experience, something I’m glad I continue to do to this day.
My involvement in the national charity, HBA, brings different values too volunteering. We’re not directly involved with patients, instead, we support, inform, represent and develop those volunteers of stations across the country. I never thought I’d volunteer for a national charity, a role which saw me manage an area containing 20 stations, to now managing the associations communications and producing a quarterly (digital) magazine.
The skills I have learnt from volunteering at HBA have been extremely useful in building a portfolio for jobs, building up my experience in management (I manage a small team) and ultimately allowing me to share and show my creativity – being allowed to try out new things that not only benefit HBA as a charity or it’s member stations, but also me as a person.
The team at HBA are fantastic and we all work closely together on a range of projects which require different skillsets. Everyone understands we don’t get paid for the work we do, but from the outside, I genuinely don’t think you’d realise we’re all volunteers.
Volunteering has enabled me to see things from a different perspective, meet new people and make life-long friends. You get out of it what you put into it, so if you only put in an hour a week, you’ll get a little something back – put in a few more hours, get more satisfaction back – it works both ways.
However, there are occasions where you need to take stock and remember you are only a volunteer. I often think people forget that – you’re giving your time up for free, perhaps answering the odd email on your lunch break, maybe putting your volunteer work before your paid day job. Occasionally, and only occasionally, have I had to remind people that I don’t get paid for this, I’m a volunteer, and I’ll respond, or action something, when I can – because ultimately, family, work and everything else comes first.
Having said that, would I change a thing about my volunteer pathway? No. Even now, I thoroughly enjoy making a difference in people’s lives and I don’t need money to do that – because the biggest payment I can get from my volunteer roles are seeing the smiles on patients faces, or knowing I’m making a difference to hundreds of volunteers nationally.