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Volunteers' Week Blog

 jacqui clare

This week is the 30th anniversary of Volunteers’ Week, and we want to thank our 20,000 plus volunteers who work year-round to provide first aid in communities up and down the country. Hear from our volunteers, in their own words, about what their role means to them.

Jacqui Clare, Community First Responder

Two years ago, I made a phone call that changed my life.  Suffering with severe chest pains, I felt I needed medical help when the pain radiated into my lower jaw.  As it was a Sunday, I called NHS Direct who advised me that I needed an ambulance.  Hours later, hospital tests proved that I was alright and not in danger, thankfully!

I couldn’t forget the care, attention and kindness of the ambulance crew that helped me.  The next day, I went onto the London Ambulance Service website to thank them and came across their volunteering page, and I haven’t looked back. I became a Community First Responder with both St John Ambulance and the London Ambulance Service, to provide other people with the help I received myself. 

I volunteer with the Havering CFR unit and I feel privileged to now be in a position where I can help members of my community when they are at their most vulnerable – I enjoy treating, supporting and assisting them in their ambulance ride to hospital. I have attended many callouts and these have taught me a great deal about the resilience and humility of people in my community. 

I remember one particular call to an elderly couple who had been together for 60 years.  The wife had suffered a stroke and was paralysed, but her husband worked around-the-clock to care for her.

Suffering from exhaustion, the husband had called an ambulance because he had heart palpitations one morning at 5am.

Both of them were distressed about being separated. I held the woman’s hand and tried to comfort them both whilst the paramedic looked after her husband. It was a sobering moment and that day has stayed with me for a long time. I consider myself very fortunate to have been able to provide some comfort and reassurance in their time of need.

Last year, I was diagnosed with breast cancer and had to have surgery followed by chemotherapy and radiotherapy.  This meant that I had to suspend my active volunteer duties while I recovered. 

Despite this, I stayed very much involved with the Community First Responder scheme, taking over administration duties and liaising with London Ambulance Service. I enjoy being part of a team of like-minded people, and working alongside the dedicated professionals of the London Ambulance Service.  I am very proud of my team - we all work so well together and everyone gives their own time so freely.  

To learn more about Jacqui’s role, please visit our Volunteering section. The Volunteers’ Week is an initiative of the National Council for Voluntary Organisations.