A special lunch was held to thank volunteers who are involved with Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust (NSFT).
It took place at The King's Centre in King Street, Norwich, yesterday (31 May) on the eve of Volunteers' Week which runs 1-7 June every year.
The event was hosted by NSFT's board of directors and began with the presentation of certificates to volunteers from Norfolk and Suffolk by the Trust's Managing Director Julie Cave.
Trust Chair Gary Page said: "The board wanted to celebrate the work of our volunteers and to thank them for the invaluable contribution they all make.
"Their great passion, enthusiasm and commitment is incredibly rewarding for everyone involved and inspiring to service users and staff alike.
"The lunch and certificates were just a small way for us to recognise the contribution made by volunteers and the positive difference they make."
NSFT has a total of 65 volunteers. Mr Page and Trust Chief Executive Antek Lejk will be writing during Volunteers' Week to those volunteers who did not attend the lunch to thank them and will also be sending them a certificate.
Of the 65 volunteers, 26 are peer tutors who run courses and workshops at the Trust's Recovery College, which has bases across Norfolk and Suffolk.
The courses are for service users who are receiving mental health care with the Trust and are aimed at helping them to better understand their condition, to identify positive goals and to support their access to opportunities, such as employment and independent living.
The peer tutors are people who have their own lived experience of mental health issues and are often former NSFT service users.
The remaining 39 volunteers are involved in a number of roles, such as spiritual support, peer support, meeting and greeting, attending wards with Pets As Therapy dogs and taking part in music activities with service users with a diagnosis of dementia.
Volunteer case study 1 – Sam Chirwa
For the past two years, Sam Chirwa, who lives in Norwich, has supported mostly service users, but also some staff, mainly on the wards at Hellesdon Hospital, in his role as a volunteer chaplain.
"Some of the patients cannot get to church because they are sectioned and I find it very fulfilling to spend time with them, perhaps reading the Bible, praying or sharing in Holy Communion," he said.
"I am a Christian and a qualified chaplain, but I've also got a background of working with Muslims. The two chaplains who are employed by the Trust are both women and some patients prefer having a male chaplain to talk to.
"However, it's not just about religion. Some patients simply want to have a chat or appreciate spending time with someone who is happy to listen to them. They tend to trust me and regard me as a neutral, which means they often open up about things they would be more reluctant to share with staff."
During the day, Sam, who attended yesterday's lunch, works for NSFT as its Equality Lead but has also worked on the wards as a clinical support worker.
Volunteer case study 2 – Rascha Zurakowski
Rascha Zurakowski, who lives in Halesworth, volunteers two days a week as a "meeter and greeter" at NSFT's Waveney Centre for Change and Wellbeing in Lowestoft.
Her voluntary duties include welcoming service users when they arrive at the centre and answering the phone.
"I really enjoy talking to people and communicating with service users," she said. "I try to be a friendly face when they want someone to listen to."
Ms Zurakowski, who used to be a community support worker with Suffolk County Council, has volunteered at the centre for the past four years and before that benefited from it as a service user for about two years. She also attended yesterday's lunch.
From left to right: Linda Stead, volunteer; Rascha Zurakowski, volunteer; Sarah Briggs, NSFT's Voluntary Services Co-ordinator; Julie Cave, Managing Director; NSFT Chair Gary Page; Steven Shelley, volunteer; Sam Chirwa, volunteer; and Bo Mander, volunteer.
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