Volunteers’ Week: Meet our volunteer Donna

Working in a school led Donna to spend her weekends with our children.

Donna Wayte works as a Learning Support Assistant at a school in Medway, so joining HOLG four and a half years ago seemed like an extension to this, enabling her to work with children at the weekends too!
She first found out about us through a friend at another volunteering commitment and attends as many of our bereavement support weekends as her schedule will allow.
We asked Donna about her role at HOLG.

What volunteering do you do with us?

When I first joined HOLG, I worked in the kitchen, making hot drinks, serving refreshments and making lunch. I was also able to observe volunteers working with children which gave me an insight into their valuable role.
Now, I work one-to-one with a child during our weekend programme which enables the children to explore their thoughts and feelings through creativity as well as giving them a safe place to talk and connect with other young people who are also bereaved.

When volunteers feel ready, they can offer to lead some of the many activities. One of the activities I often lead is ‘the telling of the story’, so I share the stories of when my mum died of breast cancer or when my nephew died suddenly in a tragic car accident aged 16.

I’m mindful of the content of my activity and how I deliver it, taking into account the children in the group. With the support of the other HOLG volunteers I can set the appropriate tone to the activity and by sharing my personal story, I am able to show the children that they too can also release their thoughts and feelings.

How much time do you give to HOLG?
I volunteer for as many bereavement support weekends as I can each year. The more I attend the more confident and proficient I become in my own skills which will help in becoming an effective volunteer. The more volunteers on board, the more families we can help. I also have the opportunity to access the fantastic training that HOLG offer.

What do you like about volunteering with HOLG?
The main thing is supporting children and seeing the change in them during the course of the weekend – it really is rewarding to see, knowing what the children have been through and feeling as if I have made a difference to them.

The specialised sessions also give me an opportunity to observe others and pick up new skills which I can apply to my work in school and because the team is so professional with a wealth of experience, you will always learn something new.

How does it make you feel when you’re working with a child?
At times it can be very emotional, especially if I am at a weekend where the deaths have been sudden or traumatic, but to see the children progress and engage in the weekend makes me feel very proud of them. Seeing them change is amazing.

What would you say to someone considering a bereavement support weekend for their child?
My advice would be to take your time and consider the advice given to you by the member of the team who visits you. They have a wealth of experience and will give solid, sensitive guidance. I also think it is important for the adult to attend the parent/carer group that runs alongside the children’s activities, because this will help the parent/carer to not only support their child but to look after themselves too.

What would you say to someone thinking of volunteering with HOLG?
Research the charity and, if possible, speak to one of the current volunteers who will be able to share with you how our weekend programmes run. Be prepared to commit to the charity and get involved but at your pace – it needs to be right for you.
The team members are very supportive and we all look after each other. At the end of every weekend, we debrief and have the opportunity to share anything which is troubling us.
Also, after we go home, it is important that we get in touch with the Programme Manager if any volunteer feels they personally need support.

If you’d like to find out more about volunteering with us, see our ‘how you can help‘ page.