Habeeba Waleed and Aisharya Suganthi chatting to a patient

A fantastic foursome of teenagers are giving up their Saturday mornings to help spread smiles to patients on the stroke ward at the Kent and Canterbury Hospital.

Callum Howes, India Goodey, Habeeba Waleed, and Aishwarya Sugnathi, pictured below are East Kent Hospitals’ first youth volunteers, with others following in their footsteps at the William Harvey Hospital and plans to expand the scheme even further.

The sixth formers spent two hours each week chatting with people on Kingston ward, offering companionship and comfort at a time when it is needed most.

Volunteers Week runs from 1-7 June, and 16-year-old Habeeba, a pupil at Simon Langton Girls Grammar School (SLGGS) in Canterbury, said she hoped others would consider giving up their time to help others.

She said: “It’s really fun and we learn a lot from it as well. We chat to people and find out about their lives and their families, and we can help by finding more pillows or blankets, or just giving them that one-to-one attention when the nurses are busy.

“We can see the change in people each week; some of them have real difficulty speaking at first but we can see them progress and help by taking the time to sit with them and chat.

“It’s not how I imagined – I thought it would be more like it looks on television, where everything is always very dramatic. We quickly realised real life wasn’t like that at all!”

The four are all hoping to study medicine so their time on the ward gives them valuable experience, but 17-year-old Callum, who studies at the Harvey Grammar School in Folkestone, said there were benefits for everyone.

He said: “It’s really built our confidence. The first week we all found it hard to start up a conversation with someone but as the weeks have gone on we have found it much easier.

“We’ve learned to read people and see who might be feeling stressed or confused, and we can help by keeping them company or just listening to them talk.

“Some people are on the ward for quite a long time so you can get to know them and build relationships.”

The group started by volunteering at the hospital entrance, helping to direct people to the different wards and departments. Other volunteering roles at the hospital include mealtime helpers and gardeners.

India, 17, a pupil at SLGGS, said: “I think doing the meet and greet role helped, because we had to approach people and start conversations, which is also really useful on the ward.

“We have learned so many life skills and it’s fantastic to be able to help and really make a difference to patients.

“I love learning about people’s lives, and they ask us questions too.”

Aishwarya, 17, who also attends SLGGS, said: “People love talking about their lives back home and also showing us the exercises they are doing as part of their rehabilitation.

“The staff are fantastic and there is always someone around if we need help or have a question. They help guide us to the people who are most in need of some company as well.

“I’ve really enjoyed meeting so many people and also seeing how the hospital works.”

Nurse Sholy Mathew, who works on Kingston ward, said the team were really making a difference.

She said: “As a team we are really happy to have youth volunteers in our ward, and we receive lots of positive feedback from the patients as well as the staff.

“We really appreciate their dedication in coming to the ward each week and helping with activities for our patients.”

The youth volunteer scheme was set up by head of volunteering and public services Mandy Carliell and her team.

For information on the volunteering opportunities available at East Kent Hospitals, visit https://www.ekhuft.nhs.uk/get-involved/volunteering/

By Ed

©2024 Hawkinge Gazette       -       The Hawkinge Gazette is not responsible for the content of external sites