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    The latest news and updates from Norfolk Community Health and Care NHS Trust.

NCH&C welcomes its first refugee volunteer, Mirabel

Photo of Mirabel

In March 2024, Norfolk Community Health & Care NHS Trust (NCH&C) welcomed Mirabel, a Cameroonian refugee, as a Ward Support Volunteer on the Beech Ward of the Mulberry Unit at Norwich Community Hospital. Mirabel is the first, and currently the only, refugee to volunteer for NCH&C.

Beech Ward is part of NCH&C’s Stroke Rehabilitation Service, where patients receive rehabilitation treatments to support with moving and talking following a stroke. Ward Support Volunteers complement the treatment patients receive from staff, spending quality time with patients, offering companionship and entertainment. They can also help ward staff with minor tasks such as taking patients’ meal choices, completing Friends and Family Test surveys, or doing the tea/coffee rounds. 

The NCH&C Volunteer Service Team are absolutely delighted to get Mirabel up and running as a volunteer. Her journey to her first volunteering session with our service has been considerably more eventful and challenging than most of our other volunteers. 

Mirabel arrived in the UK in 2022, seeking asylum having been forced to leave her home country of Cameroon. As an experienced nurse, Mirabel was keen to contribute to the community by helping the NHS. Although unable to take on paid employment due to her immigration status, Mirabel was however able to volunteer and with the help of local charity New Routes, she registered with the NCH&C Volunteer Service. New Routes is a non-profit organisation which collaborates with Voluntary Norfolk (and other community organisations) to enable new arrivals to the UK to engage in community activity and volunteering. 

Mirabel very much enjoyed meeting other volunteer applicants and learning about NCH&C and Voluntary Norfolk during her Volunteer Induction Sessions and was extremely patient whilst necessary background checks and other processes were undertaken. Finally, our team was able to complete her registration as a volunteer and she has now been volunteering on Beech Ward for a month.  

Her first session was a success and Mirabel told us: 

“The induction went well. I had some time to spend with patients and it was a great experience for me. I also met with Chloe, one of the other volunteers. I am so happy to talk with some of the patients who accepted me to spend time with them. It was amazing! I left there at 5:15pm without even noticing the time pass!” 

Although as a volunteer Mirabel cannot complete clinical tasks, her experience of interacting with patients in a clinical environment is proving invaluable.  

Amy Clarke, Ward Manager on NCH&C’s Beech Ward, is full of praise for her new volunteer:  

“Mirabel is a friendly and personable individual, who is ideal for the befriending role on the ward. She provides companionship to vulnerable patients who often have cognitive or communication impairments. 

“Mirabel’s sweet nature, respect and thoughtfulness for the patients’ personal space and preferences, means that she adapts her interactions to meet their needs. Some patients prefer a conversation whilst other may just enjoy company to watch the TV. The role helps reduce the social isolation and anxiety that these patients experience.” 

Clearly, Mirabel’s enthusiasm hasn’t waned at all after a month. Mirabel said: 

“I often stay a bit longer than my allotted time because of the beautiful times I spent with the patients. It has been amazing all this while! And that's the reasons I don't notice the time has gone so fast.” 

NCH&C’s Volunteer Service is so pleased to have been able to support Mirabel into volunteering and that it has gone so well for her. We are working hard to enable others in Mirabel’s situation to do the same in the hope that they can also gain the same sense of fulfilment and belonging as she has through volunteering.  

Volunteers are a vital part of the NHS, providing companionship to patients to help them stay well during their treatment, and helping teams with basic tasks like admin and organising so our clinicians can spend as much time with patients as possible. Visit the volunteering page on our website to find out more about supporting NCH&C with your time.  


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