Three summers of voluntary work turned into a career in care for care worker Heidi.
When she was just 16, Heidi Ball volunteered to work at a hospital in Lourdes caring for some very sick people. She got so much from the experience that the next year she returned for another six weeks’ voluntary work, and then again the following year.
What did you do while volunteering?
“The volunteers were working in the hospital mostly although we did offer support and companionship also for people and would take them out to the various amenities such as bathing in the holy water,” explains Heidi, recalling her teenage work experience.
“The majority of people who visit Lourdes are very ill and hoping for a miracle cure, or peace with their faith in some way,” continued Heidi. “It was daunting. My only previous experience was caring for my Grandad who was very ill with dementia at the time. This was my first real experience of actual care for people whom I did not know or previously met.”
It was quite an adventure for 16 year old Heidi, fresh out of school at the time.
“I’d just finished school a couple of weeks prior. This was during my summer break before heading back to start sixth form. It was also my first time abroad without family. Thank goodness for my friends! We fundraised all the money in order for us to fund our travel and accommodation for the various trips. We would be in Lourdes for three weeks each visit,” recalls Heidi.
Making decisions about the future
This adventure left a lasting impression on Heidi. It was to have a big influence on her future direction, which was a career in care.
“It was certainly eye opening in a lot of ways. I learned to always be grateful for what you have,” says Heidi.
Heidi is the kind of person who adapts perfectly to a role in care. It’s in her DNA.
“I have always adopted a caring mentality, naturally. But from this experience I learned more. I was given the opportunity to see if this could be something I could possibly look into for a career,” says Heidi.
“I think at 16 it can be hard to say what direction you want to take. Gaining experiences is invaluable. Over the three visits I witnessed some amazing experiences of hope, and also some sad experiences which definitely serve as a reminder that all we can do is our best. The whole experience did indeed light a fire within me. I realised that working within the care sector in some way was what I wanted to do. I wanted to make a difference to people's lives in some way.”
What's a career in care really like?
Heidi is aware that some people have a negative opinion of what working in care might be like, and she’d like to set the record straight.
“Over the years care has changed dramatically in that more people are now staying at home as opposed to nursing home care,” explains Heidi.
“Carers have more responsibility than ever before with the role, I just find it sad that this is still judged as unskilled labour. It takes a special kind of person to be a carer, one who really cares. I believe you have to experience what we do to truly understand it. Having said that, there is still a lot of stigma in what care is and that in my opinion is what care is judged upon by people who have not experienced it.”
Anyone working in care will agree with this sentiment. Care workers should be valued because they are heroes. They have an extremely positive impact on the lives of the people they work with. If you are thinking of a career in care, why not take Heidi’s route and get some experience by volunteering in a care role? It might be the best decision you ever made.