‘Volunteer? But… what does she get out of it?’

I was recently getting my hair cut, and my hairdresser (who shall remain nameless) was chatting about being involved in the Parent and Teacher Association (PTA) at her son’s new school.  Her question when talking about the woman who runs the PTA was ‘what does she get out of it?’

I sat quietly, letting her wrap up her conversation by herself (while remembering that I was going to ask my husband to join our son’s school PTA), but I knew the answer!

I’ve been a volunteer for my local hospital for about four years.  This doesn’t mean that I have tons of free time, that I get bored in the evenings or that I need something to stimulate my mind!  I work full time in a role that I love, but is challenging, at times frustrating and never relaxing; I have a son and a husband and plenty of things to fill my evenings.  However, I volunteer within the maternity unit of my local hospital, specifically chairing MVP Queen’s – a group of users, staff and commissioners trying to make #MarvellousMaternity.

I got involved in volunteering because I wanted to make maternity better for women and their partners.  It wasn’t because the area was failing, far from it, but when I experienced the maternity ‘pathway’ I realised how complicated and confusing it can be having a baby… and I speak English as a first language!  More broadly, I got involved in helping the NHS where I can because they have helped me.  We’re blessed in this country by having a health service that’s not only free at the point of need (I’ve been watching ER – the old 1990s American hospital series – which provides a stark reminder of the choices Americans have to make: mortgage or health?) but is also a service that, in the vast majority of cases, is striving for innovation and ideas to make the NHS the best it can be for those who use it*.

So what do I get out of volunteering?  Mainly a sense that I’m making a small difference and bringing a level of support to those who, in turn, support others.  Gradually, I’m hoping that the efforts of MVP Queen’s are making more Marvellous Maternity for those who use the hospital’s services – and that’s what keeps me going.  That’s hard to understand for some people, but I would encourage you that if you don’t know what it feels like to volunteer, sign up somewhere (whether it be your local hospital, faith centre, school…) and give it a go.

* In most cases, this is true…