Never underestimate young potential

Youth volunteering at West Hertfordshire Hospitals

West Hertfordshire Hospitals NHS Trust is part of a network of 30 NHS Trusts and their respective charities who have been welcoming young volunteers since early 2018.

‘Volunteering is the ultimate exercise in democracy … when you volunteer, you vote every day about the kind of community you want to live in.’

In the world where you can be anything, be kind … It’s such a powerful sentence which we see around but do not think about more deeply. This is what I want you all to think about … be kind.

This year has been extremely difficult for everyone. The Covid-19 pandemic changed our world, our vision, our life and we’re still trying to get used to the new normal. We have faced an unprecedented situation which we need to deal with and quite often those working in the NHS are among the first people who need to adapt quickly and find solutions for swiftly changing demands.

The Voluntary Services Team at West Hertfordshire Hospital NHS Trust in Watford in a two week period, redeveloped services and created the Voluntary Response Hub, with most of the volunteers being aged 16 and over.

When the pandemic started, most of us adults believed that our children would be lying in bed until midday, spending their time on their phone, on social media or gaming, but not every teenager chose that route.


From the 30th March, a group of 30 volunteers (many of whom were youths) stood up in the line to face the challenge of the unknown and served our community for the next couple of months with a smile, positive attitude, engagement and the belief that only together can we survive this difficult time.

Day by day, new cases, new admissions, more and more requests and yet we had the same number of youth volunteers. They were tirelessly running up and down the stairs, delivering patients belongings from their loved one; distributing meals, snacks and water to staff in isolation areas; serving tea for patients; helping housekeepers to serve lunches and dinners; and lots more. Throughout all of this, the most valuable thing they brought with them was “normality”, a smile, a hot tea … patients who they visited have been so thankful, for their willing attitudes and positive approach, their willingness to help, to listen to them and to spend time with them.


These volunteers offered the most valuable gift – their time. Their great generosity has had a profound and lasting impact on our patients and the community as a whole.  They have started to forge a new path in patient experience, adding volunteers’ influence as a positive impact for the patient.

And so today, using this great opportunity, on behalf of all of the staff of West Hertfordshire Hospital NHS Trust, and any other NHS Trust where youths play key roles, I want to express how proud we are of all of you. We’re very thankful for your commitment to share your time, that most precious of resource, to make life better for those who are in need, to lend a helping hand and to show kindness and caring that makes the greatest difference in the lives of the individuals. We know that you choose to volunteer selflessly and without expectation of being recognised or rewarded, but today we wish to do just that. We want to let you know just how much your dedication was appreciated by us.        


Whether you are a long-time volunteer or if you got involved fairly recently, and regardless of how many hours you choose to give, it’s important for you to know that what you do makes a difference. Please never forget that “volunteering is the ultimate exercise in democracy … when you volunteer, you vote every day about the kind of community you want to live in.”

So when you think about 16, 17, 18 year old students, what is your first thought about them?

Meet our young volunteers:

You can find resources for setting up youth volunteering in your hospital here.

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