Celebrating our givers

Peter Ibbetson (front centre) with fellow Willow Foundation volunteers

Peter Ibbetson (front centre) with fellow Willow Foundation volunteers - Credit: Archant

To mark national Volunteers’ Week this month, Sandra Smith talks to six Hertfordshire people whose time is given freely to help life-enhancing services in the county

Horses drinking in the River Bulbourne, managed by Box Moor Trust

Horses drinking in the River Bulbourne, managed by Box Moor Trust - Credit: Archant

Peter Ibbetson, Willow Foundation

‘I started volunteering after listening to Special Day beneficiaries and what it meant to them. It’s hard not to be motivated to help the team.’

Peter Ibbetson is one of hundreds of volunteers who enable Hatfield-based charity Willow Foundation to organise unforgettable memories for people with life-threatening illnesses and their loved ones. Special Days encompass anything from trips to Center Parcs to music festivals or spa breaks, each individually tailored.

‘Last year we organised 981 Special Days,’ says Hannah Gray, community and volunteer fundraising manager. ‘Our total is 11,000 since Willow began in 1999 and we’ve never turned anyone away. We organise and fund everything.’

With an ongoing need to fund days out, this small but growing organisation has this year opened Willow charity shops in Welwyn Garden City and Hemel Hempstead and will be at Folk by the Oak, an uplifting summer’s day of live music and picnicking in the grounds of Hatfield House on July 19.


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Natalie Trapmore, Mencap

Such is Natalie Trapmore’s commitment to Bishop Stortford’s Grove Cottage that although she began as a part-timer, her dedication now extends to seven days a week. ‘I love my role,’ she enthuses. ‘When I joined two years ago Mencap’s Grove Cottage had dropped off the local agenda but businesses are now very supportive.’

With running costs at more than £200,000 a year, the fundraising that Trapmore spearheads is crucial. Grove House offers a range of activities including youth clubs, toddler groups, and speech therapy. There are also days out, such as trips to Legoland, to fund.

The innovative ideas she nurtures include a Spring Ball, Grow a Pound challenges for schools and a forthcoming Vintage Tea Party to be held in the grounds of Bury House on Saturday July 11 when, between 2-5pm entertainers, stalls and vintage stands will present the perfect summer’s afternoon entertainment.


Louise Faure Walker, Marie Curie

This month (June 13-14) a Saxon barn in Sandon on the highest point in Hertfordshire was once again the focal point for one of Marie Curie’s biggest local fundraising events.

‘I am hoping Sandon Bury Art Show will raise thousands of pounds,’ smiles patron and organiser Louise Faure Walker. ‘Our contemporary artists include a potter, sculptor and painters. Last year we attracted 740 visitors. We serve scones on the village green and the church and gardens are open too, supporting the National Garden Scheme.’

Walker has a background in nursing, and her commitment to Marie Curie includes a determination to stimulate conversation about dying. ‘It’s our last taboo which affects every one of us and most people wish to die in their own homes. Our nurses give that option.’

With such energy radiating from this artist, she is sure to continue to raise not only substantial funds but the profile of Marie Curie throughout the county.


Sue Firth, Hertfordshire Society For The Blind

‘I’ve been told Sight Life is a lifeline because of the isolation some blind people feel – we’ve been to the London Dungeon, participated in off-road driving and are now organising skydiving,’ says Sue Firth who helped to establish this informal, social group when she began volunteering for the Hertfordshire Society For The Blind two years ago.

‘I’m enabling people to do things they wouldn’t otherwise be able to do. There’s an emotional reward and we have an awful lot of fun,’ she says.

With more than 22,000 visually-impaired people in the county, this independent charity offers help in all aspects of daily life, as society project and services manager, Vicky Palumbo, explains. ‘Our holistic approach aims to build self-confidence, while a home-visiting service provides emotional and practical support.’

The society will mark 100 years of helping visually impaired people in Herts with a centenary dinner at Hatfield House on November 26 – an entertaining way to support this important Welwyn Garden City-based organisation. For ticket information, see hertsblind.com

Heather Good, Headway Hertfordshire

When Heather Good’s husband Phil suffered a traumatic brain injury, the help she received from Headway Hertfordshire prompted her to get involved with the charity. Fifteen years later, she is a devoted volunteer. She puts it simply: ‘There was so much knowledge that I had to find at the worst time of my life. Now I am able to pass on my experience.’

The Hatfield charity supports people with acquired brain injuries and volunteers with patience and people skills are invaluable, says chief executive Karyn Jones. ‘We offer volunteers lots of training. Headway supplies information and advice to service users including one-to-one support in their own homes, help getting back to work, and housing and relationships.’

Good’s role may have changed over the years but the returns she experiences are constant. ‘I watch people in such turmoil and with low self-esteem, then see them blossom. Putting a smile on someone’s face, that’s my reward,’ she says.


Roland Howard, Box Moor Trust

Getting your hands dirty is a regular outcome for volunteers with the Box Moor Trust. And for Roland Howard, conser-vation volunteer on the trust’s 440 acres of meadows, grassland and agricultural lands in Boxmoor, Bovingdon and Hemel Hempstead, physical work is one of the attractions. He adds, ‘This work widens one’s awareness of all aspects of nature; I’ve found the past 11 years very rewarding.’

Tasks Howard and his colleagues undertake to enable people to enjoy the area including clearing waterways, eradicating rhododendrons and laying hedges. But their input doesn’t end there. ‘We’re encouraged to put forward ideas. This means everyone feels he or she has contributed to the management of the estate.’

See the website boxmoortrust.org.uk for details.


Inspired to help? To find out more about giving your time and skills to great causes, visit volunteersweek.org

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