Volunteering in the Trust Saved My Life & Kept Me Living – Dan’s Story

29th July 2021

Picture of Dan the VolunteerI was admitted to Ward 15 in the Downshire Hospital in July 2012 where I underwent a four week recovery treatment plan, which I believe saved my life.  I wondered how I could repay Ward 15 and the South Eastern Trust for the treatment that I got, and the only way I felt I could do this was to support other patients in their recovery.  So in 2014 I started volunteering, taking patients to hospital appointments and recovery meetings.

In 2015, I was contacted by Sonya Duffy, Volunteer Services Manager to ask if I would be interested in becoming a Volunteer Driver for Childrens’ Services, to transport children in my car to school, take them to contact visits and to hospital appointments.  I was a little apprehensive at the start, as I knew it was going to be a big responsibility and responsibility was something I didn’t do.  I did it and it was absolutely fantastic!  I learned so much about myself.  I then became the person that I suppose I always wanted to be.  A person who could do things for other people without looking for rewards.  I realised I was a person who could help other people who weren’t as lucky as I am.

The first thing I did was to gain the confidence and the trust of the children I was transporting.  They became the most important people when they got into my car.  They took over the radio and they took over the conversation.  I then realised what I had missed out on with my own children growing up.  I never could get back the time I missed with them but I could do something good for someone else.

I treated the children just the same way I would want my children to be treated.    When you see a child coming towards you each morning with a smile on their face  you know they are happy in your company.

I got a great sense of satisfaction every day, knowing I had done a little bit to help make someone  a little happier.

Ward 15 saved my life and volunteering kept me living.  It gave me a reason to go to bed at night, it gave me a reason to get up in the morning, it gave me a reason to look after myself, it gave me a reason to wash the car, it gave me a purpose in life but the biggest incentive was, it gave me a reason not to return to alcohol.  Volunteering today is so much a part of my life, it’s routine now.

During the pandemic, volunteer driving stopped and I really missed it.  One day I got an email from Sonya Duffy asking me if I would volunteer at the Vaccination Centre in the Ulster Hospital.  Once again I was very apprehensive as I was going into an environment I knew nothing about. When I arrived I was introduced to the lead nurse and was given the role of directing patients to clinics, or helping them to fill in forms or showing them the way out.  There were three or four other volunteers there during my shifts and we got on like a house on fire.  It was fantastic.  This was one of the most rewarding, satisfying volunteering roles.  We were all one big team, staff and volunteers, working together at a very difficult time.

Up to today volunteering is still a very big part of my recovery.  I found volunteering mentally and physically rewarding and I would recommend it to anyone who has any time on their hands at all.  Whatever time you have can be of help to someone in need.  You will get as much reward out of volunteering as the person you are helping. Sonya Duffy commented “Dan’s commitment to volunteering has been outstanding and we are so thankful to have him.  Like many of our volunteers, Dan has found that volunteering has made an improvement to his life.  It’s lovely when we see our volunteers happy and flourishing.  They give their time freely and selflessly to help others and it’s really nice when they get something in return.”

“It is important to have local people involved in our hospitals and facilities.  We want patients and clients to maintain connections and build relationships within the community, to improve their health and wellbeing”

The South Eastern Trust is one of the largest volunteer involving organisations in Northern Ireland.  Most of our volunteers were stood down during the pandemic but we hope we can bring them back very soon.  Our numbers of volunteers in the Downpatrick area are low and we would be keen to offer people the opportunity to join our teams and help make a difference in people’s lives.

We welcome volunteers from 16 years+ and have a range of volunteering opportunities to suit.  If you would be interested in volunteering or know someone who would, please contact volunteer@setrust.hscni.net