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The Importance of Volunteers

The word volunteer has its origins in the late 16th century and actually derives from someone who “offers himself for a military service” by M. Fr. Voluntaire. It wasn’t until 1630 that the word was used in a non-military context.


Around 20 million adults in the UK formally volunteer each year and we are lucky to have more than 100 volunteers who come in and volunteer for the Charity. This week is the 30th anniversary of Volunteers’ Week and across the country people are celebrating volunteers and the contributions that they make. Two people who know all about the positive benefits that volunteers can bring to an organisation are Heather Robinson and Raquel Pena Aristizabal. Heather is the Activities and Welfare Manager and Raquel is the Deputy Activities Manager at our Surbiton Home, and they work very closely with the volunteers who come in to help the residents. Here they have written about their experiences and the positive impact that volunteers have on our residents.


Heather: Before I took this role I worked as a counsellor at The London Fire Brigade and began working for The Royal Star & Garter Homes in Richmond, before transferring last year to the new Home in Surbiton. All of my previous roles, from being a school teacher, to working at The London Fire Brigade prepared me for this role, as it combines every bit of experience that I have gained.


Currently, we have 47 volunteers who assist us with the Activities schedule in a variety of different ways, and each of them brings a unique aspect of their personality to the residents. The volunteers offer such an enhancement to the Activities; they provide a breath of fresh air and bring their experiences of the wider world into the Home.


The Volunteers are always creating such unique memories for our residents. I have the upmost respect for all the volunteers that give up their spare time for the residents and create such special moments. I really enjoy seeing the friendships that are made and watching the residents look forward to seeing particular Volunteers, just like you would with an old friend.


Raquel: After completing my degree in Fine Art I found a position working at an Art Centre, which I thoroughly enjoyed, before moving on to start work at a local nursing home. Each job helped me to build upon the knowledge that I had gained previously and allowed me to develop my artistic creativity. After a few years at the nursing home I decided that it was time for a new challenge, and this is when I saw an advertisement for the position of Deputy Activities Manager at The Royal Star & Garter Homes. I applied and the rest as they say is history. I thoroughly enjoy my role here at the Surbiton Home as I can use the experience that I have gained throughout my career with my creativity, and when developing new activities for the residents.


For me, volunteers are essential to the success of all the Activities; they help to put a smile on the faces of our residents. Each volunteer brings with them a unique enthusiasm and respect for the well-being of each resident, they become a part of their lives and the residents in turn look forward to seeing them. It is so lovely to see the connections and friendships that they create with our residents and the happiness it brings to them.



Unknown. (2012). How many people regularaly volunteer in the UK?.Available: Last accessed 30th May 2018.

volunteer. (n.d.). Collins English Dictionary – Complete & Unabridged 10th Edition. Available: Last Accessed 30th May 2018.