Student Volunteering Week – St Columba’s Hospice Palliative Care, Edinburgh

Student Volunteering Week

Student Volunteering Week image

Volunteers are central to the vital work we do both in the Hospice and in the Community. To mark Student Volunteering Week 2022, we spoke to Queen Margaret University student, Umarah Mahmood who volunteers regularly with the Hospice as a Compassionate Neighbour...

Compassionate Neighbours is a community led social movement where local people offer their time, kindness and company to people living with life-limiting conditions and who may be lonely or socially isolated. Here, Umarah tells us a bit about what the role involves and why she enjoys doing it!

What are you studying at university?

"I am currently in my last year studying applied pharmacology at Queen Margaret University."

What inspired you to become a Compassionate Neighbour? 

"There are quite a few things which inspired me to become a Compassionate Neighbour, but I think the one thing which attracted me the most was the one-to-one basis of supporting someone with an end-of-life diagnosis. The idea of being ‘let loose’ not literally, but going out into the community and seeing someone live their day-to-day life with a life-limiting condition was definitely inspiring."

How many hours do you dedicate to the role weekly/monthly?

"My hours each month can differ slightly depending on how much I go during the month. I try to go twice a month and spend 2/3 hours during the one day I do this. However, some months I have went two weeks in a row depending on my schedule. I am quite flexible and it just depends on if my compassionate neighbour wants me to come in more I try to accommodate this."

What does being a Compassionate Neighbour involve for you?

"I think for me being a compassionate neighbour involves not just developing a friendship with an individual but a deep connection, that allows you to emotionally support them. This is important and also I think being a CN involves learning more about yourself as a person, your strengths and what attributes you can bring to society and people. There are things which I am just beginning to learn more about myself, finding new hobbies and skills to develop just from becoming a Compassionate Neighbour. It can help to tackle loneliness within your local community and reach out to people who need support." 

What’s something you’ve learned from volunteering with the Hospice?

"I have learnt so many things about being in the hospice - from infection control, to being able to openly talk about death, and understanding more about individuals who have life-limiting conditions/illnesses. Understanding the importance of quality of life for those in the hospice who suffer from these conditions and the benefits the volunteers bring to the hospice. It’s really amazing how you can put a smile on someone’s face."

What advice would you give to someone thinking about getting involved?

"I would just say if you wanted to get involved you should just go for it and not be scared. The experience of being a compassionate neighbour is not one you can replicate. It is a true gift to those who do it, and the way I think of it is if I was in the other person’s place I would want someone to support me, help me. This is the best opportunity to give back, because one day someone will do the same for you."

A huge thank you to Umarah for taking the time to share her experience of volunteering with us. You can find out more about becoming a Compassionate Neighbour and the amazing work we're doing to support people in the local community here. To read more about Student Volunteering Week 2020, visit the Student Volunteering Network website.

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