18-year-old Charley volunteers at the Lister Hospital in Stevenage every Friday, where he supports his peers through the Empathy Project run by YC Hertfordshire, Hertfordshire County Council’s youth service.
Charley and a team of other young volunteers provide pastoral care in the accident and emergency department and on the wards at Lister Hospital, getting drinks and food, charging phones, playing card games and reassuring young patients.
The Empathy Project launched in October 2017 and enables young volunteers, facilitated by YC Hertfordshire Youth Workers, to act as community navigators, administer social prescriptions and give emotional support to other young people attending Lister or Watford General Emergency Departments. The initiative is delivered by YC Hertfordshire in collaboration with the West Hertfordshire Hospitals NHS Trust and the East and North Herts NHS Trust.
The projects have over 70 young volunteers, who each receive training before being deployed to support their peers. Volunteers aim to provide practical and emotional support and ensure the young patients leave with a clearer idea of the range of support and activities available to them in their community.
Charley was nominated by YC Hertfordshire’s Debi Roberts who said: “Staff at the hospital value the work Charley does. He and the team have relieved pressure on hospital staff and boosted the commitment of staff to prioritise mental health and emotional wellbeing.”
“Charley has helped young people in the hospital feel more settled and supported whilst facing long waiting times in the challenging A&E environment. Charley offers non-judgemental support, and can listen to patients who may be self-harming, suicidal and or being bullied. Some disclosures would not otherwise have come to light without this support.”