Established by St Elizabeth Hospice in 2015, Zest is a scheme which sees the independent Suffolk charity work closely with children’s hospices to ensure young adults have a smooth transition into adult care.
Supporting young adults aged 14 and upwards with progressive and life-limiting illnesses, Zest ensures all the young people, under its care, receive specialist support, tailored treatment and services needed to be able to enjoy life to the full.
Currently more than 40 young people and 124 family members utilise Zest’s services. From its industry unique Short Breaks, which allows young people to take time out from their daily routine and provides vital respite for families, through to its parent support group and monthly X-Change evening social group for patients, Zest enables young adults with challenging conditions to fulfil their aspirations.
More than 1,500 volunteers generously give their time to support Zest and St Elizabeth Hospice. These volunteers provide support in many ways, including working in the Zest retail shop in Ipswich or by working alongside Zest staff in supporting young adults at X-Change evenings and weekend drop-in sessions.
One Zest volunteer is 17-year-old Suffolk New College student, Markan Yohannes, who has been volunteering at the Zest shop, in Ipswich, since June 2022.
“Volunteering at Zest has been a great experience and something I look forward to every week,” explained Markan, who volunteers in the shop every Wednesday for three to four hours.
“I like meeting new people and as I have just recently moved to England, after previously living in France and Eritrea, volunteering at Zest has helped me greatly with improving my English.”
Markan, who has moved to England after seeking asylum from Eritrea, is studying English and Maths at Suffolk New College. She has a passion for clothes and art, and is considering looking to study nursing in the future.
She said: “I love clothes and when I first visited Zest, as a customer with my foster family, I really liked it and wanted to learn more.
“We spoke with Lucy (manager at Zest) and she explained how I could volunteer here, I really enjoy it! It is brilliant to be able to help a good cause like the Zest young adult service and that is a big motivation for me each shift.”
Volunteering sees supporters donate any amount of time they are able to do so. As part of Markan’s role she volunteers for three or four hours every Wednesday, while still having time to complete her studies and enjoy her hobbies.
A typical day volunteering sees Markan working on the shop till, steaming donations, organising items and making the store look as inviting and vibrant as possible.
“I enjoy seeing all the new clothes coming in and it is really hard not to buy them all,” Markan added.
“Lucy and her team have taught me so much since I began volunteering, with each shift bringing a new job to learn and that’s helped me develop and made me feel a bigger part of the team.
“There is such a warm atmosphere at the shop and it feels nice to help others, while you also develop yourself at the same time. Volunteering at Zest is really rewarding and worthwhile.”
To learn more about volunteering opportunities at Zest and St Elizabeth Hospice email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.stelizabethhospice.org.uk/support-us/support-us/volunteer-for-us/.