Celebrating our volunteer couples

This Valentine’s Day, we’re giving a big shout out to the couples who volunteer together! We spoke to three couples whose experiences at the hospital have led them to both volunteer with us.

Harkhchand and Kanchan Shah

“Harkhchand and I have previously volunteered in different roles but for the last 7 months we have been together which has been really nice.”

Harkhchand and Kanchan have volunteered with the charity for 13 years in a variety of roles. It started when Harkhchand was treated for a shoulder problem:

“I was always treated well there – they always made me feel comfortable – so it made sense to volunteer.”

Kanchan got involved too finding it a great way to spend her time since their grandchildren have grown up.

“I enjoy it so much. I love the variety and have been able to do many different roles in my time, and everywhere I went the staff have been lovely.”

Harkhchand told us more about how they’re both currently supporting the Royal Free London:

“It’s an administrative role, an important one. We deal with letters for patients, consultants, and GPs. These letters could be patient reports or blood reports, and they all have to go out, to keep patients informed.

“It’s time-saving. Staff get more time to do other jobs and can focus more on patients. It means doctors and consultants can get results and reports to patients quicker. It frees them up to do what they need to.”

Stuart and Beverly Rosenblatt

As a couple, Stuart and Beverly have had very different experiences of volunteering, but the result is the same – helping patients and staff alike.
Stuart explained:

“We arrived in London five years ago, from Dublin. We were here for just two weeks when Beverly wasn’t well and went to the hospital for tests. She said the people were very helpful and kind and she really appreciated that. As we were leaving, we passed the volunteers office. So began an affinity with the hospital, volunteering, but in very different ways, such is the breadth of roles available.”

“Beverly was with a circle of women, all making little hats for premature babies, and making cardigans and jumpers which they’d sell, then give the money to the Royal Free Charity.”

Meanwhile, Stuart took up a position on a ward as a companion to those who couldn’t have visitors or were simply feeling a little lonely:

“There are people in the hospital who don’t have visitors, especially now, and you have a chat with them, and for those few moments, they’re not meeting a doctor or nurse – they’re meeting someone who’s there for them for reasons other than medical purposes. You have these moments of levity with them.”

Stuart even helps train up the next generation of volunteers.

Ponusamy and Indra Karunaharan

Indra’s mother was a patient at the Royal Free Hospital in 1999, and the hospital has remained important to her since then.

“I was very pleased and happy with the care and support given to my mother. So I decided to volunteer at the hospital after my retirement.

“I was volunteering at the outpatient children’s clinic for a few years but I had to stop during the pandemic. Now it’s great to be back helping with surveys at the ophthalmology and antenatal  clinics.

“I enjoy volunteering as it gives me a feeling of gratitude and service to the NHS.

The fact that Ponusamy volunteers too is great. We are able to share our experiences and find out about our roles in different areas from each other.”

Ponusamy started volunteering after an appointment at the Royal Free Hospital. He was already involved in a lot of local charity work and when he saw the opportunity to volunteer he signed up right away.

His favourite role so far has been at the imaging department:

“I thoroughly enjoyed the role of meet and greet and checking in patients. I befriended patients who looked upset and anxious, especially those referred by the oncology department. I would chat to them and make them feel at ease.”

“I am also happy that I managed to introduce three more volunteers to the charity including my wife. Now that more volunteer roles are returning to the hospital I am looking forward to new possibilities”

It’s clear that it’s a two-way street – our couples enjoy volunteering for us and our staff enjoy having them here: love is all around.