After caring for her ill grandfather, Steffi Bontoft felt inspired to volunteer for the Red Cross – and the experience eventually led to her dream job.
I’d always intended to volunteer at some point, and I suppose my Granddad’s illness acted as a catalyst and concentrated my mind on the subject. Once I started volunteering for the support at home service, I immediately felt at home.
The Red Cross has a tiny office based in Leeds Hospital, so I joined the team there. Our role was to work with the doctors and co-ordinators to see which patients might need some help at home once they were discharged.
It was nice to go round the wards, talking to the patients and reassuring them that we would be looking out for them.
It was often busy, but always enjoyable. And when my boss went on holiday for three weeks, I happily took on a bigger role and helped set up our volunteers with clients. I really thrived on the extra responsibility.
Six months later, when a full-time job came up with the Red Cross, I didn’t hesitate to apply. Hopefully, I’d already proven that I was conscientious and hard-working, and they knew I was already familiar with how the organisation works.
Now I’m a co-ordinator for the therapeutic care service, which provides relaxing hand, arm and shoulder massage for patients and those at home needing a little extra lift.
Although I manage a team of almost 30 people, I’ve also trained as a therapeutic care practitioner myself. If I’m managing a service, it’s only fair I should know exactly how it works. I now have a lovely client who I see weekly and that helps keep my hand in, so to speak.
Our team of volunteers are amazing. Some of them have been with the Red Cross for years and I’ve learned so much from them. It’s plain to see that they love what they do and really appreciate the beneficial impact they have.
Despite my busy working life, I’m still a Red Cross volunteer. It helps me understand the organisation – how volunteers feel about things and how they’d like things to be done – and gives me another perspective.
I really feel that my experience of volunteering first has helped me to be better at my job.