Mary says it is good to talk
06 Jun 17 - 05 Jun 18
It is Volunteers' Week and, to mark this event, here is a profile of one of the helpers at HPFT.
It’s good to talk – and Mary Porter is proving the truth of that maxim in her role as a unit visiting volunteer at HPFT.
She visits Hampden House in Hitchin, where HPFT provides rehabilitation services, having visited Gainsford House for four years. There, Mary talks to service users and members of staff, providing company and a listening ear.
The description for her role says the volunteer should aim to “enhance and improve the quality of the service user’s life by providing impartial, empathic companionship with the aim of helping to reduce stress, social isolation and loneliness”.
Mary said: “We could chat about anything really, I like talking to people. I have lots of different life experiences. You might go for a walk with someone. One guy likes birds so I might take binoculars. You get to know people over time.”
Her role at HPFT takes up one morning a fortnight. As well as an interest in people, Mary says time and an ability to treat people as individuals are required.
No formal qualifications are required but good communication skills and friendliness are attributes needed for the role as well as the ability to listen without prejudice and an understanding of the importance of confidentiality. Mary says she is not told about each service user’s diagnosis or treatment plan.
Away from HPFT, Mary is a celebrant with the British Humanist Association, providing emotional and practical support for people who are arranging a funeral. In the past she has worked for the Family Planning Association and was also a consultant supporting the development of sexual health services overseas. She has been a governor at HPFT and a non-executive director at the Strategic Health Authority. She was part of HPFT’s spiritual care team and is currently a humanist bank chaplain at Lister Hospital in Stevenage.