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Volunteering Stories

Tim, People Participation Coordinator


Hi! My name’s Tim and I volunteered as a RAF First responder. This was in partnership with the East Anglian Ambulance service. We trained to respond to 999 calls under Blue Light conditions to a variety of calls. In fact the other thing we weren’t able to attend was births!  

Tim, People Participation Coordinator

Why did you want to volunteer?  

 I always knew that I wanted to work for the NHS and I felt like I had the right skills to help my community. I started training to be a first responder on my 18th birthday, at the time I was the youngest person to volunteer for the scheme. While it was a challenge to balance my commits to the ambulance service and collage but I couldn’t pass up the chance to be a part of something so exciting and rewarding.  

What difference do you feel your volunteering makes, to patients, staff and yourself? 

This is a really interesting question to me because it made both a tangible and measurable difference to response times in the ambulance service. On nights with where a first responder crew was on duty we were always much closer to our 8 minute response time. It’s hard to get excited about statistics so I’d rather tell you about some of the things we saw and heard on duty. Nothing can quite replicate the feeling of knowing that you can change someone’s life by being present in their time of need. While not every call we attended would have a happy ending, I can take solace in the fact that people didn’t have to face these experiences alone, that someone was there to do everything they can to help. I’ll always be proud that I was able to be that person and I’ll be forever grateful that I was given the opportunity to make such a profound difference in so many people’s lives  

Are there particular skills or previous experiences that you have found beneficial in your volunteering? 

I was so young at the time that I don’t think I knew what my skills were. I knew I was calm under pressure and I knew that I was good at quickly building trust with people. I think going in you have a certain expectation of what you’ll see but I quickly learned that wasn’t the case. I was glad that I could fall back on my calm collected attitude to stress and my ability to connect with people.  

Have your learnt anything about yourself since volunteering? 

I learned so much about myself when I was a first responder. I learned that my compassion and empathy didn’t have a ceiling, that I was able to approach each call as it’s own unique event. I learned that it was okay to be effected by what I was seeing and that I didn’t have to bottle it all up and that it’s okay not to be okay. I also learned that I’m not a huge fan of speed, doing 60mph in 30mph zone is not something I would be eager to pursue any time soon!   

Ultimately I learned that while I enjoyed every second of being a first responder, I was able to find out that it wasn’t what I would want to do for a living. There can be such a big risk in choosing a career so being able to explore this without having to commit to it was something I will always be grateful for.  

Was there anything that worried you about volunteering?  

I think I was worried that I wouldn’t be able to cope with what we would be faced with. This turned out to not be the case but I knew that I could reach out for support from my volunteer supervisor if I needed.  

Could you share a memorable moment as a volunteer that stands out to you? 

I don’t know how many would be safe to share really but I think my all time favourite was when we attended a call within 20 seconds of the 999 call being received. We had just attended a call for someone with minor lacerations that didn’t require a hospital visit and the very next call we received was about 20 meters down the street. I think we might still hold the record for fastest response time nearly 15 years later!   

Has your volunteering led to anything else?  

I would say that this experience has been invaluable in any pursuit I have undertaken. It’s something that stands out as unique on my CV and I’m able to draw upon any skill you can imagine from my time as a RAF First Responder.  

I actually achieved my dream of working for the NHS so while I’m now in paid employment I would jump at the chance to go back to first responding. I think the thing that stands out the most for me was the sense of community that I found. I was meeting people (albeit under difficult circumstances) that I would otherwise never encounter. My world view is wider and richer because I volunteered. Community is intrinsic to humans and I think it’s incredibly rewarding to give something so important to people, namely; your time. I believe that everyone can benefit from giving our time to the people that need it. It helps us feel more connected with our communities and can instil a sense of meaning and purpose that could be otherwise difficult to find.