VOLUNTEERS are the backbone of Oxfordshire’s hospices and hundreds of people gladly give their time every week.

They are from all types of background and all ages, but what they all have in common is an interest in helping other people.

Volunteers help out across a wide range of roles. The reception desk at Helen and Douglas House is manned by volunteers. Others come in just to bake cakes. People support the care team, share a particular skill or just give their time.

It’s not just people who volunteer at the centre. Fundraisers who volunteer to raise vital cash for the hospices, be it from marathon runs or bake sales, provide much-needed help for the centres.

No matter what their role, they are most welcome. In fact, the hospices couldn’t do without them.

Wendy Bridge, the volunteer manager at Helen and Douglas House, oversees more than 300 volunteers across both hospices.

Helen House supports children from birth to 16 and Douglas House is for 16-year-olds to age 44.

Mrs Bridge said: “Volunteers do all the things that need to be done. They help bring bits of the outside world into the hospice.

“They don’t need any kind of particular experience. They just to want to give their time and have an interest in people.”

She said that once volunteers start, they tend to stay. Some have been with Douglas House since it opened in 2004.

Mrs Bridge said: “After a while volunteers thank me for being able to give their time. They feel so much part of the community at Helen and Douglas House.

“They are embedded in what we do and they feel privileged to share the lives of the children and young people here.

“They become friends with not only the young people but with their families.”

She said volunteering at Helen and Douglas House can also give people perspective on their own lives so they can “realise just how lucky they are”, she said.

Helen and Douglas asks a minimum of three hours a week and people are expected to commit to a long-term relationship. She said: “It takes a while to get used to this environment. We have volunteers who once they start, they stay.”

Volunteers are aged 18 to 70, a mixture of male and female, from all walks of life. The hospices are particularly interested in hearing from musicians, artists, bakers or skilled crafts people.

Wendy said the team includes university students, some who are interested in a career in medicine and people who may have recently retired.

Oxford’s Lord Mayor Rae Humberstone described the volunteers as “remarkable”.

He supported the launch of National Hospice Care Week on Monday and said his visit to Helen and Douglas House was “humbling”.

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Mr Humberstone, a community transport driver for Oxfordshire County Council, retires later this month.

He said once his stint as Lord Mayor finishes he would re-evaluate his schedule and would consider volunteering.

He said: “We still need the trained staff, the professionals, but we will always need volunteers.

“If they have got the experience, don’t waste it. Don’t waste all that life experience – there will always be a place for it.”

* For more information view helenanddouglas.org.uk