In July we welcomed an international volunteer at our Saffron Gardens Care Home in Bristol. Ashley Morgan, a Recreational Therapy student at the University of North Carolina, contacted Brunelcare as she was looking to volunteer in the UK.

As part of her course Ashley is required to undertake a practical placement, which is what prompted her to get in touch. We were delighted that Ashley was able to volunteer with us for a whole month. Towards the end of her placement we spoke to Ashley about her experience at Brunelcare.

“My sister lives in Bristol so I knew I wanted to volunteer here. I looked at so many places (to volunteer) online and Brunelcare just looked like such a welcoming place from all the pictures and the activities offered - doing things like tai chi and gardening looked amazing!”

Upon arriving at Saffron Gardens Ashley wasn’t disappointed, she fitted in with the team and residents straight away.

“The staff are so nice, on my first day I felt so welcome. My favourite part about volunteering here has been having conversations with the residents, I’ve learned so much from Harry and Sonia, in particular, about gardening and learnt about all their different cultures.”

Brunelcare celebrates diversity so it was a welcome surprise when the team at Saffron Gardens discovered Ashley was multilingual.

“I’ve been able to use my Spanish background - I can speak spanish and one of the residents is Spanish so that’s really helpful. Another resident is Italian. I can understand Italian so that’s been really cool to connect with them in that way.”

We asked Ashley how her experience in a UK care home is different to her experience in the US.

“I just think it’s amazing how the home’s design is circular and there’s a garden in the middle. I’ve never really seen that before. In the US they look more like facilities or often like a hospital, but it’s so welcoming here. I’m so happy I chose Saffron Gardens, it's very homely - it’s amazing how much it feels like a real home.”

Our local volunteers often spend anywhere between an hour to a day a week with us. Due to Ashley’s unique situation she spent a month with our team and became part of the Brunelcare family very quickly. Our team and residents at Saffron Gardens were sad to see her go.

Liz Elhers, Brunelcare’s Volunteers Co-ordinater says:

“'How fantastic to receive a volunteer enquiry from America and how wonderful that we managed to complete all the necessary paperwork and checks prior to her starting with us, thank goodness for Sykpe! Ashley was so wonderful with the residents, she settled in immediately and we were reluctant for her to return to America but wish her well for the future. She will be a real asset to the care industry.”

2019 marks the first year Brunelcare has welcomed international volunteers, largely due to a partnership established with UWE Bristol. Through this partnership Brunelcare has seen the benefit of welcoming international students from an array of different backgrounds. Whether we welcome international volunteers via our partnerships, or we continue to receive independent applications from students like Ashley, it looks set to be an ongoing trend from which everyone can benefit.

To learn more about volunteering at Brunelcare, click here: https://www.brunelcare.org.uk/get-involved/

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