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Company News, Birchwood Grange, Harrow, Greater London

In Celebration of Young Care Home Volunteers

Birchwood Grange’s Community Link With Preston Manor VI Form

Written by Alison Wilding, Director 6th Form Progression & Enhancement

I was invited to visit Birchwood by Helen Abbott last Spring with a view to arranging VI Form volunteers to work with the Activities Team. I was able to visit all areas of the care home and I was impressed by the friendliness and openness of the staff who clearly welcomed visitors. From this visit I was able to establish a good understanding of how our VI Form students could make a valuable contribution while benefiting themselves from the experience.

I invited Helen to visit Preston Manor VI Form to meet potential volunteers. We felt this was an important part of the process to ensure that the students understood the role of care homes within the community. Helen delivered an informative presentation to the students, explaining what they would be expected to do – and just as importantly, what they would not be expected to do. She gave them a good understanding of the needs of the residents and the challenges of taking on a volunteering role. Most significantly, she invited them to make an initial visit to Birchwood to give them a chance to see whether or not they would be able to cope with the emotional demands of volunteering with people who have specific needs. This offer also gave me confidence that the needs of our VI Formers would also be taken into consideration while they volunteered.

From the initial group of approximately 20 students who attended this meeting, 11 followed through to take up the volunteering role. While I understand from Helen that they have all made an extremely positive impression on the staff and residents at Birchwood, it is clear that the experience has also benefited them in many ways. Many of these students wanted to volunteer in order to gain a realistic understanding of the demands of working within the healthcare sector in the future and some plan to make applications to study Medicine at university. From discussing their experiences at Birchwood with them, it is clear to me that they have grasped some of the key issues and challenges in modern healthcare provision: the need for well organised teamwork to provide the best care; the need to listen carefully to the wishes of those needing care and help; the impact that quality of life has on the well-being of an individual. Our students saw these professional standards modelled by the staff at Birchwood. One student told me that she was ‘truly amazed at how positive the staff were all the time’. She told me that she had read press reports about concerns in the treatment of residents at various care homes and had been ‘a bit nervous’ when she started the voluntary work. However, this experience has given her a totally different perspective and encouraged her further to study for a healthcare related career.

Furthermore, the students’ contribution at Birchwood Grange has most certainly played a role in  transforming  them from children to young people with a sense of responsibility and concern for others. It has been rewarding to see them return to Year 13 with a great sense of purpose and drive to help them get through the next few months of academic study so that they can achieve their future ambitions.

In summary, I would like to thank Birchwood Grange Care Home for offering our Year 12 students the opportunity to experience an inspiring working environment. I would be delighted to maintain and develop the link we have made this year.