Geoff had a transplant six years ago – receiving a kidney donated by his wife, Lily. Today they are passionate about raising awareness of kidney disease and the importance of organ donation.
Here’s what Geoff has to say about what they do in their volunteer role:
We knew from our own experience that many people know little about kidney failure and organ donation and, after the success of my transplant, and both of us coming into retirement, we wanted to give something back. So we volunteer with Kidney Research UK because we support their mission to save lives by funding research into treatments for kidney disease.
We started out doing talks and presentations to local clubs, like the Women’s Institute and the Rotary Club, but over the past three years have expanded into schools.
The schools we have been to are very receptive, and of course there is a fresh bunch of students each year, so we get invited back if they have liked it. Our presentation to the children and teachers has evolved over time and as we’ve developed it, so our confidence in what we are delivering has grown too. And we really do enjoy the work.
We tend to start off with our personal story, my kidney failure and what it meant for my health, and then the whole process about transplant surgery. We go on to talk about organ donation, why people do or don’t donate, and sometimes we talk about current research and developments in treating kidney disease. We try to make it as interactive as possible and we get to hear some great conversations in the discussion groups.
We aim to raise awareness to as many audiences as possible. We’ve attended county shows, workplaces, a prison and recently County Police HQ. We get an opportunity to set up our display and often do blood pressure testing for adult audiences.
Currently we have about eight displays arranged for over the next few months, to colleges, ethnic groups, churches and outdoor shows. The ‘school talk’ season will restart in September, so that’s something to look forward to after the summer.
As well as carrying out our activities under the Kidney Research UK banner, we work collaboratively with The Gloucestershire Hospitals Organ Donation Committee.
I think the hardest part of what we do has been getting into schools and workplaces. People are busy, timetables are full, and the importance of what we’re trying to do is not always immediately recognised. So our volunteering activities require dedicated planning and networking; we’re constantly writing emails and ringing round chasing opportunities. It’s not always easy. But we love it and hope that in the long term what we do does raise awareness of kidney disease and encourages people to think about and join the organ donation register.
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