VOLUNTEER week is underway and 2005 is the Year of the Volunteer.
To celebrate the varied and interesting work of volunteers, Down Lisburn Trust are hoping to recruit some new volunteers.
One of the current volunteers, Ruby Warren, from Lisburn became a volunteer with the Trust a few years ago and has found it a very rewarding experience.
"I worked as a sister in Lagan Valley Hospital for 30 years and due to ill heath I had to prematurely retire," said Ruby.
"I really loved my job and felt like nursing had always been my vocation in life. I enjoyed the diversity and the challenges of working with different types of patients.
"Even though I had retired, I felt like I still had so much to give.
"I kept in touch with all my friends and colleagues from work and continued to take an interest in the things that they were doing to help patients on the ward.
"In 2000 Eva Gorman, Volunteer Co-ordinator for Down Lisburn Trust encouraged me to become a volunteer, so I signed up as a volunteer with the Trust and the rest as they say is history.
"When I first started to volunteer, I began in ward IA at the Lagan Valley Hospital helping to feed the elderly patients at lunch time and I continued that for two years, while also volunteering in Thompson House Hospital," added Rugby.
"Then about three years ago, Marie Curie opened a Day Therapy Centre based at Lagan Valley Hospital, so every Tuesday I help out on that unit.
"The Red Cross trained me to deliver Therapeutic Care for Marie Curie patients so I completed a course which was a great asset to me and to the patients I was volunteering to help at the day therapy unit.
"It meant I was able to deliver hand and lower arm massages, neck and shoulder massages - through the patients clothes, and also provide nail and hand care to the palliative care patients.
"The benefit of being able to provide this type of care for the patients is that it helps them to relax.
The very act of touch promotes a sense of well-being and it also gives the patients an opportunity to talk to a caring and compassionate person.
"I found this extremely beneficial to patients and found there was definitely a niche for massage in the palliative care ward and also in the stroke unit, so I began to visit the stroke patients on a Wednesday afternoon.
"This is a free service for the patients and they really look forward to seeing me which also gives me a great buzz to think that I am helping to brighten someone's else's day."
When asked why she liked volunteering and what she takes away from her volunteer Ruby explained. "The Down Lisburn Trust and Marie Curie work hand in hand to provide these extra services to the patients who need it.
"There is a great sense of achievement for all the volunteers who visit the wards and departments and a real demand for caring people to take up the volunteering challenge and give as much or as little of their time as they can.
"It's really amazing the difference a friendly face can make in the lives of the patients.
"I also volunteer on the consumer user committee at Lagan Valley Hospital.
"The panel are a group of people including members of the public including local council, ministers, retired nurses like me and we meet to discuss how we can improve things around the hospital, e.g. parking, the quality of care and service for the patients, waiting times, cleanliness of the hospital and the home from hospital scheme.
"As I have always been in the caring profession it is what I love and what I feel that I am good at.
"I really enjoyed being a nurse and being an active member of society. I do not enjoy sitting at home, it just does not appeal to me. I like to be out and about meeting people and keeping myself busy.
"My life is about helping others and even if you have been sick or you had to retire early it doesn't mean you are all washed up and totally useless.
"It is very important to get out there and to meet people. It's what makes me happy and what gives me something to get out of bed in the morning. "Volunteering keeps me fulfilled and occupied and up-to-date with all the latest news.
"It keeps me in touch with the staff at the hospital, the health service and all the new things and changes to the services.
"Volunteering keeps me and my brain active. I have also assisted with questionnaires and volunteered with patients to help their written and oral communication skills improved.
"I like the way you can do what you are fit to do and there is never any pressure to volunteer if at times you don't feel up to it.
"I believe there are lots of people in the same position as me, but if they would only try and volunteer they would love it.
"The patients are always very appreciative of anything you can do for them, even if it is only having a `wee chat'.
"You get to meet so many different and interesting people and there is never a dull moment.
"One day you could be playing Cards or Connect 4 with the patients, and the next you could be chatting and telling a few jokes to the patients.
"The staff at the hospital really appreciate the volunteers as very often they do not have the time to spend playing games or chatting and this is something that the patients need.
"I would really encourage anyone who was thinking about volunteering to just give it a try.
"There is so much good they can do for people and the reward is that you get such a good feeling knowing that you can make a difference in someone's day."
If you would like to become a volunteer with the Down Lisburn Trust, or if you would like more information on volunteering, then please contact the Trust's Volunteer Co-ordinator Mrs Eva Gorman on 028 9756 3129.