National Volunteers Week took place on the first week of June and Tŷ Hafan celebrated the outstanding contribution of its army of volunteers in making a huge difference to the lives of children and young people with life-limiting illnesses and their families.
Tŷ Hafan has 556 amazing volunteers who carry out a huge range of activities, from supporting the hospice’s care services, volunteering in shops, at events, or in the warehouse, becoming part of the corporate or fundraising teams, or distributing and servicing collection boxes. Some volunteers give just a few hours of their time on a one off basis, whilst others commit themselves to years of support.
Just one of these very special people is Lauren McSheehy, from Barry, who volunteers at the Sully based hospice, and for many years has had a special link with Tŷ Hafan.
Lauren helps out in the hospice-based ‘Handcrafted’ studio. A new project for the charity, Handcrafted by Tŷ Hafan is an upcycled range of stylish gifts, accessories, crafts and furniture, all sourced from donated stock and materials. Each item is lovingly crafted, hand painted, stitched and sewn by volunteers who come in on an individual basis or as part of a corporate team building activity, and is given a brand new lease of life, to be sold in Tŷ Hafan shops, online and at craft fairs and shows.
20-year-old Lauren’s journey with Tŷ Hafan began many years ago. As a life-limited child, she often visited the hospice to receive medical treatment, support and care. Due to medical advances and extensive treatment, she recovered from her illness but the support still continued. Her illness and recovery time meant that Lauren missed a lot of school and developed anxiety, and going to college or looking for a job was difficult for her. So she reached out to the support team for some help.
“I spoke to one of the care team about my anxiety and she suggested volunteering as a way of overcoming it”, said Lauren.
“She knew I enjoyed crafting and making things so she arranged for me to meet with Penny, the project manager at the Handcrafted studio. It was this first meeting that made me feel comfortable and eager to volunteer”, she added.
Fast forward 5 months and Lauren is now one of Handcrafted’s most regular volunteers, coming in for at least 2 days per week. For her, it’s a break away from it all and lets her just come in and concentrate on the task at hand. She does anything that needs doing - painting, sanding, and even her new found skill of sewing - and finds these activities very therapeutic for her anxiety. She also meets new people every session, many of whom come in from local businesses on team building days, and tells them all her story.
“Meeting all the groups and telling them my story helps me with my confidence and also gives them more of an understanding to what Tŷ Hafan does”, she said. And it’s with this new-found confidence that Lauren has made new friends with the other volunteers she’s met.
But it’s not just the social aspect that keeps Lauren coming back. For her, Handcrafted’s creative nature is one of its biggest selling points as it lets her use her crafty skills while also doing something different every time.
She said “There’s always some new project to work on. You might be sewing up Woofachiefs in one session and sanding a table in the next. You get a great sense of achievement when something is completed. It’s nice to see something come full circle, to see a product go from start to upcycled completion to being sold and money being raised”.
Lauren explained that for her, choosing to volunteer to Tŷ Hafan was the natural choice.
“Tŷ Hafan has helped me so much through the years so for me it’s a way to give something back to the hospice. It has allowed me to gain a deeper understanding of Tŷ Hafan and the work that is done by everyone here. I’d say to anyone thinking of volunteering ‘just do it - you’ll get the best out of it!’”.
Claire Cooper, Director of Income Generation at Tŷ Hafan, said: “Our volunteers are integral to our operations and are supporting us in so many different ways. These incredible people work tirelessly to help enable Tŷ Hafan to continue taking care of Welsh children and their families”.