Neal Strutt, who won our Outstanding Volunteer of the Year award in 2018, is well known around the hospice for his warm smile, enthusiasm and continued dedication. He started volunteering with us in March 2017 and feels that his experiences here have changed his life.
‘Before beginning my volunteering at the hospice, I was worried that it would be a dark and solemn place, but it was completely different to what I expected. There is a peaceful, friendly and kind atmosphere here; everyone is very chatty, and as I got settled in my role I really started to enjoy having such wonderful company.
‘I have autism and a mild learning disability, so while I do find new experiences daunting, I’m determined not to let either hold me back. I started out volunteering in the warehouse, and would be there most days helping out. I would unload the van, take recycling out to the bins, or sort through stock. Every day was different and there was great camaraderie amongst the team. As somebody who loves gardening and being outdoors, it was also wonderful to be working both inside and outdoors throughout the day, as the hospice setting is beautiful.
‘Last summer, I was shocked but absolutely over the moon to win the hospice’s outstanding volunteer of the year award! My mum came down to watch me collect it – she was so proud! It feels amazing to prove not only to myself, but maybe to others who live with autism or learning disabilities, that you can still live a very full and happy life.
‘Volunteering here has taught me so much. I’ve learnt to appreciate the little things in life and be grateful. Volunteering has also built my confidence; recently I felt ready to go back to work and I now have a job at the hospice on a Monday and Friday evening, helping out in the kitchen washing up. Making the decision to go back to work was a big one and it does get scary at times, but again I am part of a lovely, brilliant team who are so supportive. I plan to return to my volunteering at the warehouse again soon too!
‘I couldn’t recommend volunteering at the hospice more. It was one of the best decisions I have ever made.’
Feeling inspired? We have volunteering vacancies across the hospice and would love to hear from you. You’ll meet great people, learn new skills and help local people living with terminal illness. Find out more here or ring 01444 471598.