Ipswich medical student tells how hospice volunteer role inspired her

Vacha Fadia from Ipswich, who is studying for a medicine degree in London

Vacha Fadia from Ipswich, who is studying for a medicine degree in London after volunteering for St Elizabeth Hospice's Zest scheme - Credit: Vacha Fadia

Seeing the work of hospice volunteers as a child helped inspire a trainee doctor from Ipswich to pursue the profession.

Vacha Fadia, started helping at Zest at St Elizabeth Hospice five years ago, to support young people aged from 14 upwards to make a smooth transition to adult care. 

She first visited the hospice as a primary school pupil and started volunteering as a teenager.

"My experiences have opened my eyes to hospices and young adult care and inspired my aim to work in medicine,” said Vacha, now a second-year student at University College London.

To mark Suffolk Action Week, the 20-year-old has shared her volunteering story.

Vacha, a former pupil at Kesgrave and Farlingaye High Schools, said: "I really enjoyed getting to know all the young adults and share their enthusiasm for all the activities organised.

“From sports activities and music therapy to visits from a miniature reptile zoo which saw me hold a snake round my neck, there was always something different.

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"It was rewarding to develop friendships with all the young adults and see their personalities and friendships grow.

“They are all inspiring, making the most of life and living it to the fullest. You could have had a stressful day with studying for your A-levels, like I did many times, but once you were in the Zest environment you can’t help but have your mood lifted.”

Vacha said it was early days yet as regards deciding which area of medicine to work in, but in future she would like to be involved in training the next generation of medics.

Ann Muhs from Ipswich, a volunteer with St Elizabeth Hospice 

Ann Muhs from Ipswich, a volunteer with St Elizabeth Hospice - Credit: St Elizabeth Hospice

Volunteers cover the whole age range, and another regular volunteer with St Elizabeth Hospice is Ann Muhs, aged 66, also from Ipswich.

Ann previously worked at Ipswich Hospital for 27 years in its stroke rehabilitation, X-ray, occupational therapy and community care departments. 

She retired in 2019, but after the outbreak of the pandemic she was keen to provide support to people once more.

After a friend contacted Ann to tell her the hospice was looking for volunteers, she jumped at the opportunity.

"I love it, and really enjoy it," she said. "My family were a bit worried that I'd get upset, but it's a lovely atmosphere.

"I have met some lovely people and made a lot of friends from volunteering."

Ann added: "All the patients are so dignified, it is humbling to see. To share a conversation and a laugh with them is so lovely and they are always so grateful.

"Knowing that giving a little of my time can make a difference to their day motivates me before every volunteering shift.”

Despite an end to lockdown,  Suffolk’s voluntary sector continues to need hundreds more volunteers across a range of organisations.

Community Action Suffolk is staging fairs with advisors on hand to answer questions about volunteer opportunities.

Volunteer fairs are being held this week, including these dates: Wednesday, October 6, 2.30-4pm, St Edmundsbury Cathedral, Bury St Edmunds; Thursday, October 7, 9.30am-2pm, Sudbury Market Stall, Sudbury; Friday, October 8, 10am-2pm, Woodbridge Library; Friday, October 8, 1pm-3.30pm, Red Gables Centre, Stowmarket; Saturday, October 9, 12noon-2pm The Hold, Suffolk Archives, Ipswich.

For more details, visit the Community Action Suffolk website.

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