Meet our volunteers: celebrating International Volunteer Day

On 5 December, charities and NGOs around the world mark International Volunteer Day, a day of recognition for the volunteers behind good causes everywhere. To celebrate, we met four Great Ormond Street Hospital (GOSH) volunteers to talk about their work – and the wonders of life at GOSH!

Dominic Warman, hospital volunteer

As a Buddy on the Badger Ward, Dom spends a few hours each week working alongside a full-time Play Coordinator, keeping patients and their families happy and entertained. From a game of Monopoly or Connect 4, to helping a patient choose their GCSEs, his role is incredibly varied and crucial to the smooth running of the ward.

Being a Play Assistant means that he has plenty of stories in the spirit of adventure. One patient, a mechanics enthusiast, was fascinated by one of the hospital’s jumbo-sized lifts, so Dom and the team organised a ride. “We literally just went up and down, probably about nine times – and he had photos he was taking, we had a bit of a dance, he put on a video. It may seem simple, but because it meant something to him, to this day, he’s still talking about it!”

Consistency and commitment are his watch words for being a good volunteer. “If you’re due to come in on a Tuesday, be there. The reward back to you, as an individual – which I didn’t embark on trying to achieve – is that you end up doing something truly unique. Every week is a different experience, it’s fantastic.”

Dominic now runs his own business, but started volunteering by asking his then employer for the flexibility to spend time at GOSH. “A lot of people think they don’t have the time to do this sort of thing – you all do” he says, “It’s my favourite day of the week. I have a great job, and I love it, but this is the cooler thing. You learn new skills, you meet new people, you make new friends – you discover so many different things. Once you’ve found that flexibility, it’s totally possible and the rewards are massive.”

Karen Hodgson, hospital and charity volunteer

Karen has been a volunteer at GOSH for three years now, and currently spends two days a week providing vital support for patients and parents. “It energises you, it really does. Some people I know just don’t get how I come to work two days every week and not earn anything, but I just love it so much. That’s my reward.”

Karen Hodgson
Karen Hodgson in GOSH reception

Karen first encountered the hospital when her children took part in medical research. After leaving her job some years later, she decided to return as a volunteer. She spends one day a week manning the Charity Helpdesk, and the another supporting the parents of Woodpecker Ward.

“When the parents come in, the volunteers chat with them. Obviously, they’re quite anxious as their child is about to have an operation. We answer their questions and do whatever we can to put them at ease.” Karen’s role is demanding, but also has its unique perks, including witnessing surgery close up! “I’m very squeamish, I can’t even watch Casualty! But after it had been suggested I thought – what a fantastic opportunity to see something so special.”

“This hospital has such an amazingly upbeat atmosphere – it’s a very positive atmosphere, and it’s lovely to work here. You meet some great people – it really widens your aspect on life.”

Pauline Adams, hospital and charity volunteer

Pauline Adams
Pauline Adams

Two days a week, Pauline volunteers for GOSH as a guide – helping newly arrived families and visitors find where they need to go. “I take patients and their families to the right ward, or to their appointments – and they’re always very grateful” says Pauline, “It can be a daunting prospect, arriving in hospital, and I like interacting with people, so it’s a good role for me.”

As well as her work as a guide, Pauline supports a range of events and celebrations, from Race for the Kids, to Christmas and Halloween – with many opportunities for seasonal fancy dress! Pauline also works for one day a week within the charity, communicating with fundraisers to make sure they have everything they need for any upcoming events.

Volunteering three days a week requires real motivation. “It’s a commitment. I treat it like a job. You’ve got to want to do it. You’ve got to choose something you like doing” she stresses, “If you don’t like interacting with people, that’s fine – there are a wide variety of roles that make a big difference.

“When we get new recruits, I’m a team leader now, so I help them settle and show them where to go. You’d be surprised how many staff need guiding as well!”

Alan Doig, charity ambassador and volunteer

As an Ambassador for the charity, Alan has represented GOSH at events from the Houses of Parliament to the Tower of London, meeting and greeting hundreds of the hospital’s supporters. Ambassadors play a vital role – spreading the word about the value of the hospital’s work and the importance of the charity’s fundraising.

“When I retired, I was looking to give something back to the community. Working for the such a well-respected charity as an Ambassador has been ideal. There’s so much I can do locally, but the charity is such a major fundraiser for medical research that the work we do as volunteers will ultimately benefit children around the world”.

Alan Doig at GOSH Charity Desk
Alan Doig

As an Ambassador, Alan has visited golf clubs and Diwali dances, mosques and schools - but it’s the time that he spends in and around the hospital that motivates him.

“I recently passed the induction to also be a hospital volunteer which has seen me dressing as the mascot Bernard the Bear, and visiting the wards to perform magic tricks for patients. That’s always special – although a ward sister told me that I was only their second choice magician, as Dynamo was on holiday that week!”

Interested in volunteering at GOSH?

Apply now