Kent: Young volunteers switched on to health care
Volunteering to work in a Kent hospital has inspired young people to consider a career in the NHS.
About 160 young people have been working at Queen Mary's Hospital in Sidcup over the summer in a scheme run by Community Service Volunteers (CSV).
The students, aged 16 to 25, took part in activities ranging from working in the aphasia unit for people with communication problems following strokes to patient feeding, hygiene awareness, gardening and painting benches and corridors.
The aphasia unit provides group therapy for patients, and volunteers help by working with them on communication skills.
The unit usually closes in the summer, when regular volunteers have childcare commitments, but it stayed open this year thanks to the young volunteers.
Unit co-ordinator Beryl Howes, who works for Bexley primary care trust, said: "We had about 20 volunteers over the five weeks. I met them before to let them know what to expect. They had some training in how to communicate with people with speech problems and use `total communication', which is about using pencil and paper, drawing and gestures as well as speaking.
"For the first one or two days there was a bit of wariness, but it proved to be marvellous. It was just so vibrant. We had some clients who chose to come in every day."
CSV said about 80 per cent of those in the project were now keen to work in health care. CSV project manager Josie Holden said: "When young people are given a chance to be active citizens, everybody benefits."