Phillipa Huxtable is head of voluntary Services at Prospect Hospice. The hospice supports Volunteers’ Week, which runs until Wednesday

PHILLIPA Huxtable has many stories proving the value of volunteering, but one of her favourites is also one of her most offbeat.

“This might seem a really weird example, but it meant so much to me when I heard it,” she said.

“I was sitting upstairs in my office on a sunny day, with the window open, and the minibus was pulled up outside.

“Our volunteer driver and volunteer companion, who goes on the minibus to make sure the patients are okay, were out there using the lift to get patients into the minibus to go home.

“The volunteers companion was pressing the button, the lift was going up and he was chatting away like a lift attendant and saying things like: ‘Going up! Lingerie, Floor Three!’ “For me, that absolutely encapsulated how important it is for our patients to have a great time that’s so normal. That little contribution that he made that day was phenomenal.

“It was one of those moments when you think, ‘That’s why I do this,’ a tiny moment that demonstrates the value of volunteering. That’s why I’m passionate about it.”

Phillipa is also passionate about Volunteers’ Week. “It is a national celebration of volunteering across the board, so it’s in all organisations but also in informal situations where people are helping their neighbours, family, that kind of thing,” she said.

“It’s a great opportunity to highlight the amount of people’s time that goes into volunteering and the rewards that it brings for others.”

Phillipa grew up in Salisbury, and her urge to help others appeared early. She puts it down to: “Some life experience and seeing people in difficult situations, that kind of thing. I was always just instinctively motivated to support people.”

She worked for charity Scope in a day and residential centre for young adults with profound difficulties, and was inspired to train as a social worker.

Phillipa spent some years as a field social worker in Bristol before having her children. While looking after them, she and her then partner, a fellow social worker, bought a screen printing and embroidery business which still operates.

She returned to the care world in 2004, when she became voluntary services manager at Dorothy House Hospice, near Bradford-on-Avon, and the move to Prospect came four and a half years ago.

Phillipa will soon depart for Kuwait City, where she has accepted the role of volunteering and events manager at Bayt Abdullah Hospice, a pioneering children’s hospice.

Much as she loves her work at Prospect, she was unable to resist the lure of taking a major role in what is a trailblazing development in palliative care in the Middle East.

In addition to happy memories and years of experience, she will take with her an absolute belief in the value of volunteering.

Prospect has 900 volunteers, including drivers, charity shop volunteers, people who hand out and gather collection boxes, hair stylists, home visitors and people with senior professional experience who offer their expertise at no charge.

“We have the benefit of 900 ambassadors for our work out in the community,” said Phillipa.

“In terms of the hospice, we involve volunteers for lots of different reasons, but primarily so that we’re in a position to deliver the excellent quality that we do deliver. Without volunteers, we couldn’t do that.

“Volunteers enhance the professional care that our staff give in lots of different ways.

“Let’s use the example of our volunteer drivers. Some of our patients are brought to and from the hospice for different reasons – they might come to the day hospice, they might come for a physio appointment, they might come in for some bereavement counselling. There are all sorts of different reasons why they might come.

“Where needed, volunteer drivers transport patients to and from home. That’s much more than a taxi service, because our driving volunteers have been prepared very carefully for their role by us and they’re able to relate to people.

“The driving volunteer can be half an hour in the car with someone. They’re both looking out of the front window, so there’s no eye contact, and it’s a time when many people feel comfortable talking.

“They’re talking to someone who isn’t their family, so they’re not worried about burdening that person; they’re talking to someone who isn’t discussing their medical situation, so for a moment that’s not on their mind, either.

“They can just talk freely to a volunteer in a way they can’t talk to other people, and that for me is just one example of how our volunteers enhance the professional services that we offer.”

Phillipa added: “I would say the majority of people who volunteer here have had some previous connection with the hospice, and their volunteering demonstrates their appreciation and is an opportunity for them to give back for a service that they have received.

“Other motivations include learning opportunities for young people looking for a career in medicine, people looking to return to work and gaining some up-to-date experience of the work environment, people who are looking to benefit their CV with different experiences, people who are looking for some structure in their life during retirement and – obviously – there are the social benefits.

“The feeling of belonging and being valued is huge for some people. Also, and for me as well, is something I don’t think we talk enough about, which is the privilege of being involved in an organisation that does phenomenal work for an enormous number of people at very difficult times.

“I’m absolutely passionate about volunteering. I’ve seen the difference it can make for patients and their families and for volunteers as well. I’ve seen volunteers grow in confidence and broaden their outlook on life because of their involvement here.”

Her advice to people considering any form of volunteer work?

“Do it. The impact you have on the life of others, on your community, will impact on your own life.You get more out than you put in.”

“Lots of volunteers here say that.”