The 5th of December is International Volunteer Day (IVD) 2022, an annual day of recognition and promotion of the fantastic and tireless work of volunteers across the world. This year, the theme of IVD is solidarity through volunteering. Hughes Europe is joining in this solidarity and would like to inspire others to take action by sharing the story of one of our colleague's volunteer work.
The challenges our world faces are becoming ever more urgent and diverse, and finding solutions can only be achieved by working together. The UN Volunteers organisation reminds us that compassion is an integral part of solidarity, where we unite to support one another.
This support and compassion are unmistakable in Christelle Thomas's story. She is a Bereavement Befriender for the Baby Bereavement Forget Me Not Support Group in Milton Keynes. We spoke to Christelle about her experiences:
What does the Baby Bereavement Forget Me Not Support Group offer?
We provide a safe space for bereaved parents to come together. We offer support and understanding at a time when parents may be feeling devasted and lonely.
Our support meetings are informal - parents can talk, or just be around people that understand something of what they are experiencing.
The group is open to everyone that has lost a baby, whether that be a neonatal death, stillbirth, medical termination, or miscarriage. We offer non-judgmental support whatever the circumstances.
What do you get out of volunteering?
For me it’s about helping make a tiny positive difference to people’s lives. My volunteering brings me into contact with families at their most vulnerable time.
It is an enormous privilege to support these families and learn about their precious children. The amazing parents that I meet inspire me to keep doing what I do.
What led you to volunteer?
In 2010 we lost our beautiful baby boy Sam to Trisomy 18. Overnight we were hurled into a world of bereavement on a level we could never have imagined. It is impossible to go through such a loss and not emerge a changed person. I learned that the experience of loss (whilst inevitably painful) can be improved significantly by quality bereavement care.
I was really fortunate and received outstanding professional support at every level and my experiences left me in no doubt that the right support, delivered in a sensitive and timely manner can enormously improve long-term mental health outcomes. I am passionate about bereavement care and feel every family deserves the best individualised support.
I have jointly run the local support group alongside MK Hospital’s Bereavement Midwife Tracy Rea since 2017. Tracy was my bereavement midwife when we lost our son and it’s an honour to volunteer alongside her now offering a parent’s perspective on loss.
Have you volunteered in any other roles before?
I have volunteered for several different organisations in various roles before. These include being a call handler for Get Connected Helpline, which supports young people, a playworker for children during prison visits at HMP Wormwood Scrubs and a secretary for Youth Club Pre-School Newport Pagnell.
I have also helped with fundraising for The Stillbirth and Neonatal Loss Charity and the Baby Loss Fund at Milton Keynes University Hospital.
If Christelle’s story has inspired you to join in solidarity through volunteer work, you can read more about IVD’s campaigns and events at the link below.