Volunteer Story: Sandy Carter

In 1985, Sandy Carter saw an advert in her local paper, The Mercury, for gardening volunteers at St Christopher’s Hospice in Sydenham

Sandy worked part time in the flower department at M&S in Bromley and, having some time available while her children were at school, thought this would be a good use of her time.  She’d always wanted to do something to help her local community.

After a successful interview, Sandy completed her training and started volunteering one day a week. That began Sandy’s almost 25 year association with St Christopher’s.

Not long after she began volunteering, someone suggested that perhaps Sandy might like to help in the newly-opening day centre. Being used to working with the public, Sandy was very happy to help patients and staff in this way. Over the next 15 years Sandy continued to volunteer one day a week in the day centre, concentrating especially on support for the hospice’s hairdresser at the time, Adrian.

When the new Anniversary Centre opened in Sydenham in 2007, Sandy transferred into the new space and changed her day from Monday to Tuesday.  She says: “Everything was shiny and new in the Anniversary Centre, and it was so lovely and big and bright! There was a lot to learn, especially with the new café, and it took a little time to adjust to the changes, but it was all exciting and we were very happy to be part of it. We were all so impressed with the new facilities, especially the bathing rooms and new hairdressing salon – isn’t it wonderful to be able to offer those services for people who might not be able to access them otherwise?”

Sandy has seen many changes: “I remember Dame Cicely used to send the volunteers a postcard each year to mark the anniversary of joining the hospice. That was a lovely touch.  I still have those postcards. Although I didn’t know Dame Cicely well, I used to see her sitting in the dining room and we’d say hello.

“I can appreciate that change is necessary and I know that everything that happens here is for the benefit of the patients. The support group for Anniversary Centre volunteers is very good indeed.  We meet six times a year and can discuss any issues or concerns we have in a safe environment.”

Three years ago Sandy experienced St Christopher’s care directly when her mother became very ill and was cared for on the inpatient unit before she died. Sandy remembers: “The care mum received on the ward was amazing.  There’s no other word for it.  Being a volunteer for quite a while, I thought I had a pretty good idea of how things were here, but spending time on the ward with mum I got to see the incredible work the staff and volunteers up there do every single day. They took care of all of us.”

Over the years Sandy has formed many strong friendships with other volunteers: “I really look forward to my Tuesdays volunteering at the hospice. I love coming here.  We are all here for a reason. I know I give my time to help but I get something out of it too – I feel I am putting something back into the community.”

"I really look forward to my Tuesdays volunteering at the hospice. I love coming here"