‘The experiences I have gained while volunteering have made a real difference to me’
by Laura Telky and Pavlina Antoniou Student volunteers This week is Student Volunteering Week, a nationwide celebration of student volunteering. We’ll be celebrating the efforts of Marie Curie student volunteers every day this week by asking some of them to tell us what it’s like to volunteer while studying.
Laura Telky and Pavlina Antoniou donate their time and skills to the Marie Curie Hospice, Glasgow. Both study Counselling Psychology at Glasgow Caledonian University and are in the final year of their doctorates.
What is your volunteering role?
Laura: I volunteer within the Patient and Family Support team at the Marie Curie Hospice, Glasgow. When a family experiences the loss of a loved one, we offer the individual family members support, either individually or as a group. That means listening and being with them through their grief. I work one-to-one with family members who have been bereaved, offering them an empathic, safe and non-judgmental space where they can explore and process their feelings.
What made you decide to volunteer with Marie Curie while studying?
Pavlina: I am a Bereavement Support Volunteer and support people experiencing bereavement through group work. I decided to join the hospice for a number of reasons: to offer my help to people that may need it, to gain experience with bereavement and group work and to become more familiar with my personal attitude towards terminal illnesses. Laura: Having lost family members to cancer, I wanted to be there with others to support them through their experience. During my course I have been learning therapeutic and counselling skills and wanted to apply these skills to help others in difficult times.
How do you find volunteering while studying?
Pavlina: Volunteering while studying has been extremely fruitful and interesting on both a personal and professional level. I have taken part in training that has equipped me for my role in bereavement and will be useful in the future. The staff at the hospice deeply respect the values, experiences and uniqueness of each individual which identifies with my own work ethos.
What is your favourite part of volunteering? Has volunteering had any impact on you personally?
Laura: Being with an individual in great emotional pain and witnessing their journey through the emotional turmoil of losing a loved one is extremely powerful. Being alongside someone going through such difficult feelings to a place of acceptance is a strong and moving experience and can truly touch your own life. Pavlina: The experiences I have gained while volunteering have made a real difference to me. I have learned how process groups run, the different responses to bereavement and the various ways of supporting these individuals. I’ve also learned about my strengths and weaknesses as a person, developed effective coping strategies and questioned my own ideologies about death and dying. Being a member of a service that generously embraces vulnerable individuals is both satisfying and fulfilling.
If you could offer some advice to students thinking about getting involved in volunteering, what would it be?
Pavlina: I would definitely recommend volunteering to other students because it is such a rewarding experience. And, as Mahatma Gandhi puts it: “Be the change that you wish to see in the world.” To find a volunteering role that suits you, search though our current opportunities and apply online at mariecurie.org.uk/volunteering.