Meet the volunteer team
At Hampshire and Isle of Wight Air Ambulance, we are extremely fortunate to have a large group of hard working and dedicated volunteers. So many of our volunteers have personal reasons for volunteering; here are just a few of the inspirational stories that have encouraged these fantastic volunteers to got involved with HIOWAA.
National Volunteers’ Week Diary
1st – 3rd June
I was at Gunwharf Quays in Portsmouth helping out with the half term fun week that had been organised, and we were there with the Pod and a merchandise stand. It was great to raise awareness about the work of HIOWAA as well as raise vitals funds to keep the helicopter flying.
I was asked by the charity Schools and Youth Coordinator, Joanna Hennessy if I could help at a school in Winchester with a fly in event that had been organised. It was fantastic to meet the crew and hear about what their day had been like so far. It was the first fly-in I had attended so it was incredible to be a part of it, I had to ensure the helicopter could land safely. Within around 10 minutes of the crew and helicopter being on the ground with us, they were called on a mission meaning they had to depart. The admiration I have for them having witnessed them get a call and being able to get off the ground within 4 minutes, given that they were out an event was incredible. The teamwork and communication they have is incredible, and I got to witness that!
I was signed up to do an event that was put on by the Rotary Clubs of Aldershot and the surrounding areas. The event itself was called ‘Kids Out’ and it was specifically for children that had special educational needs as well as young carers and children that cannot go to a mainstream school. It was a fantastic opportunity to tell people about the work we do and answer any questions that the children (and adults) may have about our service! Seeing the children’s faces light up when they could try on one of our HEMS helmets or put on a doctor’s backpack as well as seeing what other gear our crew use, was a fantastic feeling and something I will never forget!
I attended a school summer fete on Hayling Island that was organised in the way of a Great British tea party in honour of Her Majesty’s 90th Birthday. It was fantastic to be a part of it and raise awareness of the service HIOWAA provides for the people of Hampshire and the Isle of Wight. Given the location of Hayling Island with limited access, having a service like HIOWAA can prove to be a very crucial lifeline, which is why raising awareness of that service is so important.
The event I attended today was very special to me, as it marked my one year anniversary of volunteering for the charity and the event that I first attended a year ago, as a HIOWAA volunteer. It was the Stansted Garden Show at Rowlands Castle, it was a great event to be a part of again and the ice cream wasn’t too bad either!
At the end of National Volunteers’ Week I headed up to Thruxton, where the Air Ambulance lives when it’s not out saving lives. It was the weekend of the truck racing and I must admit, I had never heard of racing trucks before! It was a great day apart from the abysmal weather that put a little bit of a dampner on the day but nevertheless, it was a great day and I loved every moment!
During National Volunteers Week, I made it my mission to attend and do as much for HIOWAA as I possibly could and get involved in every way possible. I think I achieved just that, I saw nearly all four corners of Hampshire and I loved every second of it. If I wasn’t out volunteering I would probably have been sat at home watching Jeremy Kyle! I love getting out and seeing new places and without HIOWAA I couldn’t have achieved that. Never in my life did I think for one second I would see so much of Hampshire as I have done through volunteering.
- Helen Doulton-Levett
For the last 16 years I have worked at Southampton Airport; initially working with commercial flights and more recently for Signature Flight Support, who deal with private aircraft. I love what I do, but the very nature of the job means that I have to work shifts. My shift pattern of 3 days, on 3 days off, means that I only get 2 weekends off in every 6, and as my boyfriend is a teacher we like to spend the rare weekends we have off together adventuring! It also means that I can’t really commit to clubs or evening classes as I don’t have the same days off every week. Most of my friends also work Monday to Friday, so I decided I needed to find something I could do to meet new people and make productive use of my days off during the week. I had no idea what!
One day I was at work and the Hampshire and Isle of Wight Air Ambulance came in to get some fuel whilst out on a mission. They come in frequently when they are having a busy day and don’t have time to get back to their base in Thruxton to refuel. Sometimes they’re in a real hurry, and if we are busy we need to try and make space for them as we all realise the importance of their work and do what we can to accommodate them.
Sometimes they also come to us when they have been out on a mission and the weather has deteriorated such that they are unable to land back at base. Occasionally they stay with us overnight, or for a few days if necessary. On this particular day they had just dropped a patient at Southampton General Hospital and didn’t have enough fuel to get to base, so they came to us. It made a nice change to see the whole crew as normally the pilot just brings the aircraft while the doctors and paramedics are handing over the patient at the hospital. Whilst we fuelled the aircraft and gave the crew much needed tea and biscuits, we had chance to chat about the jobs they had done that day and the challenging situations they faced. It was while talking to them I found out that they were a charity. I couldn’t believe they weren’t funded by the government. I had a eureka moment and went straight to their website to see what I could do to help.
I had no idea what I could do, but I figured there had to be something. I filled in the application form and on the 30th April 2015 I went to my induction. Little did I know what a positive impact HIOWAA was going to have on my life. I agreed to do anything; pick up donation pots, attend events, do talks. After doing a few events I realised that I loved getting out in the community and talking to the general public about the vital work that the Air Ambulance does. So many people had stories of someone they knew who had been rescued, or whose lives had been touched, by the work of the Air Ambulance.
Although I loved doing events, most tended to be at weekends. In June I received an email from the charity Challenges Fundraiser, asking if anyone could spare one day a week to go into their head office and help with various tasks in the lead up to Boomtown festival. This suited me perfectly, so I signed up. I was then asked by the Schools and Youth Coordinator if I fancied dressing up as a mascot to go into schools as part of for the charity ‘Be a 999 Hero’ campaign. I was delighted to help. Many people will think I’m crazy, but being a mascot has since become my favourite thing! I love it when peoples’ faces light up when they see you walk into a room.
In September I was asked by the Charity Manager if I would be able to come into the office one day a week to assist with organising the launch of their new night capable helicopter in March and April this year. I started coming into the office one day a week, which not only meant that I learned new skills, but also that I spent more time with the fantastic team there. They really made me feel like a member of the family and I have made some great new friends. I feel very proud that I was able to help, in a very small part, to make the launches the success that they were. It gave me a great sense of achievement to give some of my time, not wanting anything in return. It’s surprisingly very rewarding.
I have continued to work one day a week at the head office, offering my help to anyone that needs it. I still attend events and I continue my Mascot duties whenever I can. I thoroughly love giving my time to this amazing charity and I feel it has enhanced my life no end.
- Claire Howard
Claire Howard is a solicitor, and throughout her legal career she has lived and worked in Hampshire. She has very personal reasons for becoming a volunteer.
I was already aware of HIOWAA through my work. I am a solicitor and for the last 20 years I have represented many local people who have been seriously injured. I head the Serious Injury Team at Irwin Mitchell LLP and am based at Ocean Village. My Mother also lived in Thruxton for 30 years and she has often seen the Air Ambulance at work.
Over the years, many of my clients have unfortunately had to use the Air Ambulance, and it has often saved their lives. I am on the committee of Headway IOW (Brain Injury charity) and many of those we support have also needed the service. Before I became a volunteer, however, my involvement with HIOWAA was always at arms length. I had supported the charity, but only financially. In May 2015, it came closer to home. My 18 year old nephew, Nathan, was knocked over by a car in Winchester. He was knocked unconscious and suffered a seizure at the scene. Road ambulances and emergency services were dispatched and on hearing the 999 call the Air Ambulance team was also dispatched. Nathan was stabilised at the scene and taken by road ambulance to Southampton General Hospital and admitted for several days. Fortunately, he only suffered a mild head injury and facial fractures. He has made a good recovery and we hope there will be no longer term consequences. Instead of simply making a financial donation, I thought I would give my time instead and volunteer. It’s my way of giving back and saying ‘Thank You’.
Its early days. So far I have collected a cheque from a local group who raised £1,000 for HIOWAA. I met the committee and gave a 10-15 minute talk about the Air Ambulance, the work they do, the types of missions they attend and explained how vital the donations are and how they are spent. I have also attended events as a supporter of others, for example the Great South Run last year. Air ambulance crew and others were running and raising sponsorship or myself and about 10 other volunteers where in one spot by Southsea Pier shouting and cheering words of encouragement. We also distributed flags to passing children, so as well as supporting the fund raisers we also raised the charity’s profile. I have also attended summer and Christmas fares manning the stall, selling merchandise and collecting donations.
It remains my way of giving back. The service came to my family’s assistance and I want to ensure that it is there for others when it is needed. Raising funds is vital for this invaluable service, even more so now that night flying has been introduced. I find it a really positive experience. I get to meet different individuals and groups I would not ordinarily come into contact with. It’s really fulfilling. I was a little nervous when I attended my first event but it’s such a great charity that everyone I’ve met is really positive about their work and extremely friendly.
Nathan was walking home from college. He was due to meet his Mum (my Sister) who was collecting him en route. She and I had been together all that day, arranging our Mother’s funeral – our mother had died suddenly the week before. Nathan was due to meet us at her house, but decided against it and so said he’d catch the train instead and start walking. My sister called him and they agreed upon a place to meet. Nathan was on the wrong side of the road. He had his ear phones in and I think he was distracted by that as well the recent family bereavement and he just didn’t look. He stepped off the pavement in front of a car. Fortunately (if you can say that) he stepped in front of a learner driver, who was driving pretty slowly. His injuries could have been much worse.
My sister was the second car on scene and was there within a minute or so of it happening. She came upon Nathan in the road before the emergency services arrived. She called me from the scene and said the Air Ambulance had arrived. My heart sank and I immediately feared the worst. From my “day job”, I knew this wasn’t good. I had too much knowledge and not enough at the same time. I had not realised that the Air Ambulance responds to 999 calls immediately to ensure they are on scene straight away even if they aren’t always needed to transport patients to hospital. However, the crews expert pre-hospital knowledge was on hand to assist.
I vividly remember that phone call, and although my experience was nothing like my sister’s. I want to ensure that the vital work of the Air Ambulance continues, and becoming a volunteer enables me to do that. It’s also important to me that I am giving my time and not just money and so am giving back to the charity.
Meeting new people and being able to promote the great work of the Air Ambulance.
- Gill Douglas
At 10.39 on May 9th 2013 my life changed for ever.
At the time of my accident I had been under immense pressure and all consuming stress. I was out walking my dog on the usual route when I came across a kind neighbour, and because I felt that I couldn’t cope with chatting to her that day, I decided to change my route at the last second and I went to cross at the crossing.
I remember looking at oncoming traffic on the opposite side of the road and thinking that my side of the road was clear. I stepped into the road and, as I did so, I felt and heard a massive blow to the back of my head. The next thing I knew I was on the ground, not knowing what had happened.
Within seconds a man was beside me, reassuring me I that was ok and calmly explaining that I’d been hit by a bus and that an ambulance was on its way. A lady appeared by my other side; they were both so kind and reassuring. I was worried about my dog and about my parents, who I knew would be driving by any minute, as they were due at my house that morning. I was so worried that they’d drive by and see me in the road.
The paramedics arrived and helped me to get through a traumatic time with such calmness and empathy that it was truly humbling. Not really understanding the seriousness of what had happened, we joked about my awful choice of non-matching underwear…..doesn’t your mother always tell you that you should always match in case you get hit by a bus! The paramedics explained that, because I had a head injury, and because of the damage I had done to the windscreen, they had decided to call the Air Ambulance.
I wasn’t frightened as the paramedics were there to comfort and reassure me. I stayed under a blanket as the Air Ambulance landed nearby and the HEMS team arrived. This is where my memory becomes a bit blurred; I remember a hive of activity and feeling a lot of pain in my neck and back. I was neck braced and put on a board to stablise me. The team were truly amazing and professional.
After the assessment it was decided that I could be taken to hospital by land ambulance.
The x-rays and scans showed that I had broken ribs, a head injury and laceration to my elbow. After being cleared up I was taken to the high dependency unit. It was particularly emotional seeing my family; I could see how worried they were and it made me see how serious my accident had been.
My accident really was life changing. Although I am still under a lot of personal stress, I have learnt first hand how precious life can be, how life truly is too short and never to allow stress to consume my life again. I concentrate only on the good and the positives; my family and friends.
This has opened my heart up to some very special people in my life.
This is why I now volunteer for HIOWAA; because I really want to give something back in appreciation of the great work that they do.
- Chloe Kitching
‘Life can change in a day, give a day to change a life’ – the HIOWAA volunteer slogan, and the reason I became a volunteer.
In June 2008, our lives changed forever. We received the news that nobody wants to hear. Dad had been involved in an explosion at work whilst renovating a yacht and we had to get to the hospital, and fast. The hospital said that Dad had a 50/50 chance of survival, having sustained 40% burns and having breathed in fire repellent expanding foam. Despite the odds, over twenty operations and numerous hours of rehabilitation, four months after being admitted, Dad finally came home. However, had it not been for the specialist care that the Air Ambulance gave him at the scene, he would never have survived the journey from Hythe Marina to Salisbury District Hospital, something our family will be forever grateful for. Even more so as, at the time, the helicopter had only been flying for six months.
My friends and family would describe me as determined and a bit of a perfectionist. I am my own worst enemy, as I always think I could have done better and I love being busy. On the rare occasion that I have a day with absolutely no plans, I sit on the sofa for about ten minutes and think about all the things I could or should be doing – and normally get up and find something to do! So volunteering for a charity works perfectly for me.
I work a typical 9-5 day, organising home and motor insurance for high net worth individuals (certainly a world away from my own) and, whilst my partner is busy juggling work as a builder, I need something to keep me occupied at weekends. So, when Dad saw an article in the local paper about volunteering for HIOWAA, we thought it would be a great way to give something back whilst working together on something, a kind of ‘father-daughter’ thing. Five years on, and not only do I still volunteer, but Dad has made the transformation from volunteer to HIOWAA employee. It’s an organisation that has not only saved Dad’s life, but has helped him to rebuild it too.
You become a part of ‘the family’ when you become a HIOWAA volunteer. It really doesn’t matter what you have going on in your life, whatever time you can give, no matter how small, they are always grateful. During my time with the charity I have passed three insurance exams and am currently studying for a fourth, I play netball once a week for a local league team and I’ve bought and undertaken a huge house renovation. Through all this, the charity staff have taken a keen interest and have appreciated that I can only volunteer a few times a year.
Not only are they flexible, but there is so much variety to what you can do to help. I like volunteering at weekend events as I have so many different experiences, but I also run the eBay account and help sort and sell used postage stamps – something I can do whilst sitting in front of the TV in the evenings. Whatever skills you have, the charity will get the best out of you.
Life is short; do stuff that matters.
If you would like to join our vibrant team of volunteers, please contact our Volunteer Co-ordinator Kirsty Davies on 02380 743516 or email: email@example.com