Well my name is Nicki Gilbert and I am a clinical volunteer at Skanda Vale Hospice. Life within this building is probably not what most people would imagine it to be.

It is a happy place and it’s full of laughter, really. Full of laughter, full of a good dose of naughtiness. It’s a lovely warm place to be.

We give space to patients to be where they are.

You know, if a patient just needs to be quiet and just wants to be left alone, then they can have that. We can look in on them, they have call systems. We give them the space and privacy and the time to go through what they need to go through.

But similarly, if patients want to stay up all night and play cards they can do that too. If the patient wants to bring in a bottle of wine and enjoy, you know, a few tipples of an evening, they’re welcome to do that. It’s about allowing people the space and the freedom to enjoy the life that remains for them.

One of the amazing things about being a volunteer-led service is that everybody who works here wants to be here. Ideally in a perfect world we would all work in places that we love to be and there will be no job dissatisfaction. Here, we’re lucky enough to find ourselves in a situation like that.

When I come in here on a shift I invariably leave more uplifted, more energised and happier than I did at the start of my day.

Even though you can be worked flat out, even though you can kind of just about time for a cup of coffee, or whatever…

What you receive, and it sounds like a platitude, but it’s absolutely true; what we as a team, and as individuals in that team end up receiving, in the care that we provide is so, so very much more than we are able to give the patients that are here. We are the beneficiaries of that – truly.

If someone had told me that, as people do, wise people tell you these things don’t they? Wise people tell you yes service to humanity, service to life – it’s very helpful, it makes you forget your worries, it helps you inwardly, it helps you grow spiritually, it helps make life more meaningful.

And there are all sorts of obstacles that we put in our own way, or that life seems to put in our own way. And the idea of somehow going out and doing something, it’s just sometimes a bit daunting for people.

I’ve spoken to many people who’ve had the same experience, but when when you’re actually in it and doing it, and being there with somebody on a one-to-one level – somebody who right there needs care and love, and you can just give yourself one hundred percent to that person. Your payback is just humbling.

People tell us all sorts of nonsense, you know – that we’re angels – which we’re not at all. But people are overwhelmed by the love that somehow just flows so easily here.

We love that we are a part of it. And we benefit from it. Our patients convey so much love to us – it sounds awfully wishy-washy (I’m hearing my words) but it is such a real experience – you walk through these doors and often things lift off. Patients have said;

‘There’s something here… there’s something here. I don’t know what it is, but there’s something! You can feel it! You can feel it.”

Yes, of course, we need to we need to wash and dress people, and you know there is something strangely beautiful in all of that. If I had heard myself saying that 20 years ago I’d have thought ‘what on earth is that person talking about?’

But this is a place that I am so grateful that I can spend time. And I know that all the other volunteers feel the same way. And I know that we’re not going to be alone.

There’s going to be loads of other people out there who will feel exactly the same way. There were going to be initial reservations of course, of course. But it’s worth it! Go for it. Come join us, we’re all right!

Find out more about volunteering