Volunteering Helps Balbir Find Happiness Again
When Balbir Gill’s husband died unexpectedly she was left feeling bereft and lonely. But her volunteering work for ellenor has helped her face her grief and find enjoyment in helping others.
The 74-year-old comes into the hospice two afternoons a week, where she meets and greets visitors arriving in the reception area.
She said: “I used to be so sad, and I missed my husband so much – I would sit and cry all day long. I think going through that grief helps me relate to people who come into the hospice. I look forward to coming in every week.
“Working in the reception area, I am at the hub of everything and get to know what’s going on. Sometimes visitors are stressed or upset, and I can sit with them and have a cup of tea and chat until they are feeling a bit better.
“It is very worthwhile work and I understand a lot more about what ellenor does now. The quality of care they give is marvellous.”
The charity must find £7 million a year to care for and support thousands of patients and families facing life-limiting and life-threatening illness in Kent. It relies on the generosity of the local community to help reach this target, and volunteers like Balbir are crucial cogs in ellenor’s wheel.
Balbir said: “When I joined ellenor, I went through a period of training, and I have been at the hospice nearly a year now. Everyone has been so friendly and I’m slowly getting to know people. I like being on the front desk as I enjoy meeting people and having a chat with them. I can understand some of their feelings because I have been through something similar.”
Balbir’s beloved husband Amarjit died after suffering a blood clot.
She said: “We used to do a lot together and went on lots of holidays. After he died, I felt so lonely at home on my own. It ended up making my feel ill and while I was having blood tests and talking to the nurse, she suggested I contact ellenor to see if they needed any volunteers. It sounded like a good idea – so I called them. You can’t keep asking people every day for help. You can’t keep sitting looking at the same four walls; you have to get out of the house.”
Balbir, who lives in Rochester, feels lucky to be part of the Sikh community.
She said: “When someone dies lots of friends and relatives come to the house, which is really good. We talk and talk so feelings don’t stay in.”
Balbir still misses Amarjit and the times they spent together, especially their travels to the United States, Canada, Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Barbados and The Bahamas. The couple were also lucky enough to spend three months in India with friends.
Now widowed, she is still determined to keep exploring the world and recently went back to Nairobi, where she was born – after 52 years.
She said: “I came to the UK in 1969 with my parents when I was in my 20s and this is where I met Amarjit. I was in catering at St Bart’s Hospital, and he worked for the GLC (Greater London Council) and we met at a family wedding.”
The couple went on to have three children, a daughter Mandip and two sons Raj and Harsh. Balbir now also cherishes time with her six grandchildren.
“I love spending time with my family and one of my grandsons often comes to stay with me. I have always enjoyed cooking and housework.”
Her career was in hospital catering where she was used to working alongside doctors and nurses.
She said: “It was a small hospital, so it was a bit like being at ellenor, where everyone knows each other, and they are all so friendly. It’s like being part of a family. ellenor isn’t a scary place at all, and I would encourage anyone thinking about volunteering to come along and find out more.”