Joan Wilson volunteers one morning a week in the Corner Shop, and once a quarter when she and her equally eagle-eyed husband John sit down with a final draft of Hospitality and proofread it cover to cover, catching all the final typos that would otherwise have danced off to print. She is absolutely invaluable in both roles.
Joan’s volunteering at the hospital began at a very difficult time 12 years ago. She had lost her first husband very quickly to cancer, and she was not very well herself. She remembers being in awful shock, and “a bit battered” but mainly she recalls just how supportive everyone she met here was. The emotion of the time she describes is clear but what Joan focusses on is the strength of the friendships she made, and the lovely people she met. Consequently, and happily, Joan tells me that over time things got better.
Joan started in the Main Shop and then joined the finance team. “I heard that the finance office wanted some help so I used to do a Friday morning in there, counting the cash from the collecting boxes and the buckets, for example from the butcher who takes donations from customers for dog bones, and I helped with all the fundraising. That was good, I did one morning in the shop and one morning in the office. I liked office work so it was good.”
Then, simply and beautifully, she fell in love with a friend. She and John married, and Joan left the hospital for a little while.
Joan radiates warmth, and is very clearly a people person. “I’d always worked with people over the years, including some time with Citizen’s Advice, and I like the interaction. People are interesting to chat to.” So before long, she was back, and she headed straight for the Corner Shop. “When I came back I said to Sue that I’d like to be down here and that’ll suit me, just one morning a week.”
She says one of the things she loves most about volunteering, aside from the friendships, is the atmosphere in the hospital. “I’ve met some really nice people, and so much goes on here that people outside the hospital wouldn’t realise – all the little efforts people make and the small touches that make such a difference.” I ask her to elaborate and she tells me one simple story of a nurse who came to the shop and bought two newspapers one morning. One was for her, and one was for a patient who had come in, so the nurse was treating them to a paper she knew they wanted. “A lot of kindness goes on.”
Joan keeps in touch with several volunteers, and the friendships, it seems, last long beyond the hospital. She volunteered alongside a retired midwife for a while, who has since left to start a new role as a Covid vaccinator and remains a friend; and she also tells me about a student who was working in the shop when she first started. The girl used to talk about wanting to be a doctor and Joan’s advice to her was simple “You go for it!”. She happily reports that the girl did indeed go for it, and has just become a junior doctor. They have stayed in touch and Joan is proud to tell me that “I followed her right through”.
Joan leads a very full life outside of the hospital too. “John and I travel a lot. We like walking, and enjoy life generally.” Such is the flexibility of the volunteering role that Joan takes time off as and when each year to travel and do what she and John enjoy the most. “We’re grateful we’re here every day and we make the most of it!”
Joan brings heart to the hospital, and joy to the interactions she has and the friendships she makes. She is so easy to talk to that it’s only as we’re finishing our chat that I realise I have just spent the final 10 minutes of it talking about myself, oops! Thank you Joan.
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