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"I know first-hand just how rewarding volunteering can be"

​An electrician who spends his days maintaining Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust’s (NSFT) buildings has spoken of the satisfaction he gets from his second role as a First Responder and urged others to consider volunteering.

Gary Shaw, who has spent the past four years with the works department at Hellesdon Hospital in Norwich, began volunteering with the East of England Ambulance Service in October – and hasn’t looked back since.

He is now urging others with a few hours to spare each week to follow his lead and consider taking up voluntary work. The call comes in the run up to National Volunteer Week, which runs from 1 to 12 June, and is designed to celebrate the UK’s 21 million volunteers.

Gary works with three other First Responders who take it in turns to cover the area around his home village of Sparham. He can be called to anything from heart attacks to respiratory problems, diabetic comas, heavy bleeding and choking, and is first on scene to respond before the ambulance crew arrives.

The 58-year-old joined the First Responders after having a life-long interest in human biology, which was triggered when his father’s partner sadly died of a heart attack in front of him when he was eight-years-old. Since then, he has taken numerous first aid courses and spent time responding to incidents alongside Norfolk Fire Service before deciding to enroll with the ambulance service.

“I loved human biology at school and earnt a first aid badge when I was around nine or ten,” said Gary, who is also a football referee and has volunteered for the RSPCA. “That interest in first aid and helping people and animals has carried on all my life.

“I have done a lot of training and decided to sign up as a First Responder so that I could put those skills to good use. I am really enjoying it so far.

“Our role is to be the first on the scene and to support and maintain life while keeping the person’s relatives calm. The ambulance crews do an amazing job and are always following on behind us, so you know that support is not far away.

“It’s a really rewarding job and very varied. When you arrive somewhere the patient is often not responding, but by the time you leave you can feel you have given them that second chance. I also see people in the town who recognise me and come up and pat me on the back, shake my hand and say thank you, which is really nice and makes you feel your help is really valued.

“I would encourage anyone who has some time to spare to look into voluntary work. There is so much variety available that there is something for everyone, and I know from first-hand experience just how rewarding it can be.”

A wide variety of volunteering roles will soon be available at NSFT, from meeting and greeting service users and carers to helping out in occupational therapy sessions or working in the gardens.

To register an interest in volunteering with the Trust, please contact Eve Edwards, Voluntary Services Manager, on 01603 421348 or by email at NSFT will begin advertising all of its voluntary opportunities on its website later this year.