Side by Side Volunteer, Alzheimer's Society, Royal United Hospital, Bath. 

                                                        October 2017 to 1st of June 2018. 

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It all started when…

I arranged to meet Art Therapist Hetty Dupays after researching into gaining art therapy experience, in Bath, and I was so inspired by the hospitals love for art and the community, that I decided to email Hetty and see if I could arrange a chat with her, to see how she got to where she is, meet Hetty, look at the hospital’s art space, and see if there is any volunteering opportunities, if she thinks I’m suitable.

After a lot of emails, back and forth, we met at the Royal United Hospital in Bath, at 2pm on the 19th of October. We met in the atrium and Hetty sat with me and talked about her team at the RUH and what they all do, how they help, and how art the heart, came to be. It was really inspiring to hear that Hetty started it alone, with no real intention of it going anywhere,  and now her project is really successful and has won numerous awards.

I told Hetty why I decided to meet with her, explaining that I am simply trying to make the most out of my second year, and use the opportunities given to university students, to gain experience in the sector I am possibly wanting to work within. Hetty agreed that it’s a great idea, and she was surprised how organised I was, and how committed I am to this idea. One particular sentence that Hetty said that surprised me was (roughly quoted): “I think that there is definitely opportunities for you here, you’re very outgoing and we need people like that”. This surprised me, because I don’t think I am outgoing at all, I struggle with social interaction, as I am a very anxious person, however one of my goals this year, was to improve my confidence and people skills, and so I was very pleased to hear that, because hopefully it shows that already I am becoming more confident and outgoing.

Overall, sat down we had around a 10-15 minutes discussion, I explained my history, my available days, my motivation and I mentioned that I do have a recent DBS check, so I can work with children, which Hetty was pleased with. Hetty explained that she definitely feels that there is some opportunities within the art at the heart, for me and that her department’s goal is to eventually have a committed volunteer run a workshop! I explained that I would love to do that, as it would help my experience so much, and gain myself some leadership skills. Hetty explained that she is very busy at the moment, however would email me next week, to discuss arranging a contract, and an interview with other people within her team.

Finally, Hetty showed me around the art space, and I was fascinated by the variety of artwork, including from patients and staff! I had never seen so much artwork within a hospital, and I could just imagine the impact it has on the patients. Hetty explained that unlike within an art therapy setting, the work isn’t analysed, rather just for fun and expression, which I thought was great, because it could put pressure on the patients otherwise. It was truly inspiring and motivated me to want to help people even more, and I think meeting Hetty was a brilliant starting point, towards looking into a career within the health and art sector.

After the meeting with Hetty, she referred me to the Alzheimer's Society who have side by side volunteers at the hospital, and she explained that it would be great experience for art therapy as it allows me to gain experience of working with vulnerable people, and there is the chance of using art to help the patients. 

Overall, I volunteered with the society numerous times over the time period. I learnt the importance of communication and it has greatly improved my communication skills and confidence. The experience also opened my eyes to the different ways people express themselves, and it taught me to be more patient. I also realised how much I cared about helping the people, and how much joy I got from seeing a smile on someones face. Overall, I didn't get to do many art activities at all, as people with dementia do really struggle with this, however I didn't mind as I still really enjoyed helping to make the people feel better with communication.