We’re Marie Curie volunteers and losing someone close to us was our motivation
Meet Charlotte and Kelvin, two Marie Curie volunteers in their twenties, who spend their free time helping people living with a terminal illness.
‘I just want more people like my friend to get care’ - Kelvin
Volunteering in a charity shop might not be how most men in their twenties choose to spend their time, but for Kelvin Mutiso, 25, it’s an opportunity to do something he loves. “I do it because I like to help people. The charity is truly fantastic. There’s so much you can get involved in.”
Kelvin volunteers at the Marie Curie Shop in Edmonton. “I’m the person who’ll do everything!” he laughs. “I do customer service, give people information, cleaning, managing the stock and I come up with new ideas for the shop.”
Kelvin started volunteering for Marie Curie after a good friend was diagnosed with leukaemia. “He was 24 years old. We were very close. In fact, he was the first friend I made when I moved here,” Kelvin says.
“I visited him as much as I could and it was always heart-breaking to see him go through the ordeal. I just want to help out and help raise money for more people to get care.”
Kelvin’s favourite part of volunteering is meeting new people. “Just the other day, we were in the shop and a customer comes in and they just commented on how beautiful the shop was. They said they pass it every day and wanted to tell us. It’s nice when people are so appreciative; it makes you want to put even more effort in.”
As one of the younger members of the team at the shop, Kelvin views every shift as an opportunity to learn something new. “There is a lot of knowledge and skills to be gained from volunteering, as well as personal benefits, such as making new friends and getting a great referee,” he says. “I would say it’s one of the best decisions a young person can ever make to volunteer for charity.”
‘It’s not as scary as you think!’ - Charlotte
Charlotte Stowell, 24, also knows a thing or two about learning through volunteering. Since starting at the Marie Curie Hospice, Hampstead, as a volunteer gym assistant, she’s been accepted on to a physiotherapy course at university.
“Volunteering 100% helped me get on the course,” Charlotte says. “I applied last year and didn’t get on. So I thought: ‘OK, let’s broaden my experience’. I just happened to come across this role. It’s definitely really helped.”
Charlotte helps to run the hospice’s gym, which people living with a terminal illness can use to keep active and rebuild their strength. “Exercise releases serotonin – the happy chemical – so for people to come in and do some sort of activity really helps,” she says. “It’s a fab idea to have the gym here and without volunteers, it wouldn’t run.”
Volunteering at the hospice wasn’t an easy choice for Charlotte, though. Like Kelvin, she’d experienced losing someone close to her. “My gran died nearly 10 years ago and she was in a hospice with a spinal tumour,” remembers Charlotte. “I was only young and she wasn’t in a good way there, so it was a really big challenge coming to work somewhere like this,” she admits. “When you talk about hospices, people are like: ‘Ooh it’s tough.’ But actually it’s such a friendly environment. It’s like a little family.”
For Charlotte, it’s the people that make volunteering so special. “There’s one guy who comes in to use the gym and you have to basically hold him down to stop him from doing too much!” she says, smiling. “He comes in and he’s always happy, always wants to talk to you.”
Charlotte thinks it’s important that more people understand what living with a terminal illness is like – and do what they can to help. “It’s not as scary as you think,” she says. “Volunteering at the hospice has changed my perspective on things. I think it’ll change my perspective for the rest of my life.”