FOR those who spend their working lives in offices, there is something both relaxing and satisfying about labouring outdoors under a blue sky.
I was given the chance to swap the keyboard and mouse for a trowel and wire brush and help out at Wigan and Leigh Hospice (WALH) for the Evening Post’s Deednominate scheme.
The initiative, started by reporter Natalie Walker, sought to replace the increasingly-lethal Neknominate craze which saw young people across the borough challenging each other on social media to consume ever-more deadly cocktails of alcohol and other substances with something rather more community-minded.
When my Deednomination turn came, courtesy of my colleague Lucy Hilton, I decided to head for Hindley and take up an hour or two maintaining the tranquil grounds of the hospice’s Kildare Street headquarters.
Facilities manager Steve Brodrick showed me into the quadrangle, a popular spot for patients and their families at the heart of WALH’s facility treating Wiganers with life-limiting conditions.
My jobs were to remove some of the algae and moss which had grown up over the water feature in the centre of the area so the fountain could bubble once again, before weeding the raised tubs which fill the garden with bright, colourful displays of bedding plants and shrubs.
Steve says getting the grounds looking their best is a key task for quite a few of the volunteers who pass through WALH’s doors.
He said: “We’ve got two ladies who come in each week to do the gardens, and a team of three men who also visit regularly.
“We also like to get corporate groups helping in the grounds.
“Staff from a local branch of HSBC are coming in at the end of March and Hazeldene Foods come in quite a lot. It’s very important to keep the grounds looking good, because it gives the patients something nice to look at when they are here.”
Volunteers are crucial to the operation of the hospice, with around 750 unpaid workers carrying out everything from the sort of tasks I did to running the charity shops, fund-raising and helping out with inpatients and therapy services.
Knowing the immense value of the work being done in the hospice, and being aware of the sheer size of the team pulling together to deliver it, turns working in the beautiful spring sunshine into a very enjoyable couple of hours.
It is satisfying to think that whatever tasks are being carried out, whether weeding flowerbeds, cleaning fountains or anything else that may need doing, could bring a moment’s pleasure to patients and their families going through one of the toughest ordeals they will ever face.
While the Deednominate is still comparatively new to the Wigan Evening Post, the hospice has quietly been building up a veritable army of voluntary labour through word-of-mouth growth for years.
Fund-raising manager Maxine Armstrong said: “People get great satisfaction from giving something back, and giving up their time for free shows how passionate they are about helping the hospice.
“We have had young offenders from Hindley come down to work on the grounds, and we’ve also run events in the gardens with community groups such as the Rainbows, Brownies and Boys’ Brigade.
“We get people doing tasks such as leaflet distribution, driving patients to appointments, running community collections and many other things.
“If people volunteer for a local charity we are sure they will meet new people, make friends and get satisfaction from the job they do serving the people of Wigan and Leigh.”
To find out more about volunteering at the hospice, ring 01942 525566 or visit www.wlh.org.uk