Published 4 June 2024     More in
Volunteer Judith

As far as motivations for volunteering at St Christopher’s go, Judith Freeborn’s was a strong one.

After years working in numerous caring roles, with sick children, older people with dementia and running a pre-school, Judith witnessed St Christopher’s care first hand.

“I came here to visit a close friend who was in her final days,” she recalls.

“She was in her bed, in the sunshine in the garden under a shade. She was happy, pain-free and totally at peace. It just spoke volumes for the loving care at St Christopher’s and, at the moment, I knew I wanted to volunteer there and do so supporting patients.”

The only barrier to Judith’s immediate application was a lack of self-confidence. That was quickly dispelled by one of St Christopher’s founders – Dr Mary Baines – who attended the same church.

“I didn’t know if I would be the right sort of person having seen how much care people at St Christopher’s gave. I just wasn’t sure I could meet that standard, but I wanted to try and Dr Mary encouraged me and persuaded me to go for it.”

Eight years later, Judith is forever grateful for both that encouragement and for the opportunity.

“My time volunteering at St Christopher’s has been amazing. No two days are the same. The only thing that is the same sense of fulfilment as I leave.”

Having been successful with her application, Judith underwent a three-day training programme before starting as a volunteer on the In-patient Unit where she does one shift a week on a Friday. Additionally, she does one shift a week welcoming visitors to the hospice at reception and enjoys the variety of the two roles.

“When I arrive on the ward, I ask the staff what’s needed, chat and listen to patients and their families or sometimes just be present in the room when it’s not necessary to speak. I have a precious commodity – time. I have time to listen, to come alongside someone and to just be there.”

“Sometimes I take patients out into the garden so they can feel a part of the outside world – not just the four walls of the ward.

“It can be emotional sometimes, but it is always a privilege.”

“Then when I am doing my welcome role, it also feels really important as I can be the first face people see when they walk in.”

“It’s my job to help make them feel at ease and you can sometimes see the anxiety draining away. They might have a picture of what a hospice is like, but when they see us volunteers smiling and in our bright green t-shirts they quickly see that it’s a happy, friendly place.”

“I love the mix, and, in fact, there can be a connection between the two as some of the visitors are coming to see people I have been talking to on the wards.”

With years of experience talking to patients, Judith has learned how to initiate conversations including some that have triggered life-enhancing moments.

When a patient mentioned to Judith that she had friends coming to visit from her native New Zealand, she contacted the fundraising team and a concert with a full traditional haka was hastily arranged in the Anniversary Centre.

“It’s moments like that that give you a real sense of fulfilment because you are helping to meet patients’ wishes and needs – whatever they are and however small a part you play.”

Judith has made many friends through volunteering and says she believes the hospice could provide an opportunity for anyone with a bit of time on their hands.

“There’s a role for everyone and the volunteering team are so good at listening and matching people with the right role.”

“They’re also really supportive and there to talk to if perhaps you’ve had an emotional day. And while I absolutely don’t volunteer to be thanked, it is lovely when people say thank-you and relatives write letters.”

Find out more about Volunteering

You may also be interested in

Emma with her brother, Steve

Emma’s Story

When Emma Lindow decided to jump out of a plane for St Christopher’s, there was only one decision she had to make: jump from 10,000ft or 15,000ft?

Silva Lantern Model

Silva shines Lantern light on palliative care in Lebanon

Lantern Model Programme has inspired clinical instructor in Beirut to transform the way she teaches nurses

Tom Allen 2019

Tom Allen: There’s so much positivity at St Christopher’s

Our ambassador speaks about his love for the hospice, his thoughts on dealing with grief, and what he imagines his own funeral to look like.

Brit school story

Stuart’s story

Stuart is the Principal of the BRIT School who work closely with St Christopher's

Skip to content