Volunteers Week 2023: Vera and Christoph

Meet Vera and Christoph, two of our ward volunteers bringing joy to our patients with their activities trolley and drinks trolley!

Meet Vera

“My name is Vera and I visit the wards with the Activities Trolley. It contains games and activities of all kinds, such as board games, card games, jigsaw puzzles, colouring sheets and pencils, word searches etc. We keep the trolley very well stocked, and if somebody wants something in particular we can usually provide it. We even have virtual reality headsets for those feeling particularly adventurous!

The activities from the trolley are very popular with patients and their visitors. I have sometimes found whole families gathered round a bed sharing in a jigsaw puzzle of maybe 1000 pieces. We also have packs of activities for children, to keep them amused if they are visiting.

If a patient doesn’t want anything from the trolley, then another option on offer from us is a chat. I have had some wonderful conversations with patients. Listening to their stories, hearing about their lives and their families. I feel very privileged to share those times with them. It can be a very humbling experience and I always feel that I get more out of it than they do.”

A Day in the Life

“A typical shift on the wards may go something like this. After signing in, getting masked up and sanitising my hands, I sanitise the contents of the trolley and set off for the wards. I check with the Head Nurse which patients might like a visit and who is perhaps not feeling well enough that day. Then, armed with that information, I set off to do some visiting. Most patients, whether, or not they wish to participate further, are pleased to see a friendly face, who is not a doctor or nurse and about to administer some treatment, but just someone who has popped in to see how they are doing.

I look above their bed for their name and introduce myself. The trolley is a good icebreaker for a chat. I also look around the room for any cards, photos or personal items that may give me the opportunity to start up a conversation about them. The need for sensitivity and confidentiality is always uppermost on my mind when visiting. Knowing when to pursue a conversation or politely bow out.

At the end of my shift, I enter information into the trolley book for the next person who will do the round. This is usually something similar to ‘person X on ward X was interested in doing some artwork, or would like to play dominoes’ etc. I also make a note of what items I’ve issued from the trolley and which items have been returned. Sometimes we will stay and play a game with a patient if they wish.

I consider it a great privilege to volunteer in this way. It’s a real joy to make even a small difference to someone’s day. That small difference couldn’t happen though without the generosity of our donors who provide us with the arts and crafts that we use and their support in replacing those items is really appreciated.”


Meet Christoph

“I will forever be grateful for the kindness and care shown to my wife when she spent five nights in Lourdes Ward at St Joseph’s towards the end of 2019. Through some rather blurred memories of a difficult time, one moment stands out: a friendly middle aged woman wheeling a trolley piled with drinks coming into Kate’s room.

“Would you like a gin and tonic?” she asked my wife.

Kate laughed with delight, and declined the offer. But the moment stuck, and more than a year later – and recovering some equilibrium after Kate’s death – the opportunity to volunteer with that drinks trolley came my way. Of course I couldn’t resist. There was a full briefing from staff on how St Joseph’s works, proper DBS checks, and an opportunity for a trial run or two with experienced volunteers before going solo.

It is a privilege to be allowed, welcomed even, into people’s lives at such a time, and to be able to do something positive alongside the much more important and demanding work of the wonderful nurses and staff. Very often on my Tuesday evening round I may not be asked for anything at all, or perhaps just a single can of Fanta or Coke, never mind a whisky and ginger ale or a gin and tonic. But what counts – and I know this from experience – is the offer: the very fact that this bald old bloke has come from the world outside to see if you can be cheered by something refreshing. The look of amusement, the smile, the shake of the head – sometimes a nod, hooray – is worth more than treasure. I love wheeling my drinks trolley!”