Having seen the level of care her mum Muriel received from St Luke’s Hospice over several years of illness, it was perhaps inevitable that Catherine Williams would ultimately want to give something back to the charity that gave the family so much support.
“My mother was terminally ill for 17 years and in the last seven or eight years of her life she became involved with St Luke’s, receiving support at the In Patient Centre and also attending a range of activities at the hospice,” Catherine says,
“I will always treasure the scarf she made for me at St Luke’s and also the cup and saucer she decorated in her craft sessions.”
Following Muriel’s death, teacher Catherine decided that she wanted to change career and retrain as a counsellor.
And she admits that throughout her training, she was always hopeful that she might be able to put some of her new skills into use for St Luke’s.
“I eventually was able to apply to become a St Luke’s volunteer bereavement counsellor and the day they telephoned to tell me I was accepted, I remember whooping with joy,” she says.
“It was the day before my birthday and I could not have wished for a better gift!”
That was more than two years ago now yet Catherine still insists that volunteering at St Luke’s is the greatest privilege.
“It is never easy, far from easy but it is an honour to hear people’s stories, listen to them, sit with them, hear their pain and share in it with them to an extent at least,” she says.
“I have also learnt the importance of having somebody to sit with you and listen to you, to talk or not to say anything at all because sometimes silence can be just as precious.”
Catherine has also developed a deeper understanding and appreciation of the things that St Luke’s has to offer patients and families.
“The beauty of St Luke’s is all around the place and even though I knew I wanted to come here, I did not appreciate that until I arrived,” she says.
“It is a happy place, everyone smiles at each other as they pass in the corridors and everyone will do what they can to help if help is needed.
“Think of it as a kind of micro-environment that reflects how I sometimes wish the outside world could be, where everyone is equal and worthy and deserving of respect and acknowledgement.
“If you are thinking about volunteering for St Luke’s you are half way there and if it is something you think you would like and have the personal qualities to give, I would definitely say go for it.”
To find out more about the full range of volunteering activities available at St Luke’s visit volunteer