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Meet Photography Volunteer – Kate

Kate lives in Oxford and has been volunteering for Helen & Douglas House for over 10 years, photographing families with terminally ill children.

Kate is a mum and part-time photographer who used to photograph weddings and family portraits but eventually decided she wanted to dedicate her work as a portrait photographer to being a volunteer for Helen & Douglas House.

Kate said ‘I live in Oxford close to the hospice and so valued the opportunity to get involved as a volunteer in my neighbourhood and community. In my role is as a Family Portrait Photographer, I come into Helen & Douglas House to take photos of guests while they are staying, sometimes solo portraits, sometimes with their families, usually at the hospice but also at events or in family homes.

‘The photos I take give the families a beautiful memory of a particular moment in their life as a family altogether. As a parent, I know that there are few things to treasure more than a portrait of your child that captures them just as they are at a certain age, whether with their cheeky grin or their wide-eyed gaze.

‘I’ve learned so much about photographing children with special needs and to connect with a wide diversity of families, sometimes meeting them in the most difficult days of their lives. It’s the messages back from parents that mean the most to me.


A photo Kate took of Jack and his Dad Jason on Helen & Douglas House’s 30th Anniversary

‘One of my strongest memories is from the very first time I came into Helen & Douglas House to photograph a young boy with his parents. His mum wrote to me after she received the images, saying “I have hundreds of photographs of my disabled son – you’ve given me photographs of my son.” Those words are priceless to me and have inspired every portrait I’ve taken at Helen & Douglas House since.

‘Another Helen & Douglas House mum wrote to me after a very poignant photoshoot with her teenage son to say “I cannot believe that you have been able to get in a photo how I feel about my son and how I believe he feels about me. Have you ever heard people ask what they would rescue from a house fire? After the people (and dog!) it would be this photo.” Messages like these are utterly priceless to me.

‘Volunteering has given me the privilege of working very closely with some extraordinary families, sometimes during the most difficult moments of their family life. It is humbling to meet parents and children who are facing some very tough physical and emotional challenges, and they do it with perspective, patience, humour, and love.

‘I’m also always deeply impressed by the staff at Helen & Douglas House, the care team, and everyone who works alongside them, for the warm and supportive atmosphere that they create. I also feel welcome as a volunteer, a valued part of the team, and that’s special.

‘I don’t think of Helen & Douglas House as a hospice. I think of it very much as a respite too, a place that can be full of life and laughter, holidays, and happy visits year after year.

‘I would recommend to anyone that they should volunteer for Helen & Douglas House because I see so many engaged, committed, and fulfilled volunteers at work in so many different ways at the hospice and in the shops. And because I know just how much the volunteers are appreciated and valued. I find it profoundly rewarding that I’m able to turn my love for portrait photography into a gift for families that I know, for them, is priceless and something to be treasured for life.’

Can you help? We are extremely short of volunteers in our charity shops!

We are looking for shop volunteers too so pop into your local charity shop or take a look online to find out more about the great opportunities we may have.


Office & support services volunteering

Our hospice volunteers help with everything from housekeeping, catering, and reception to giving a helping hand to our estates team.


Family facing volunteering

Help a local family the hospice cares for by becoming a Home Support Volunteer. Help with housework, cleaning, ironing, and shopping or gardening.


Fundraising & events volunteering

Come and join in at our events! Meet our supporters and some of the hospice families, represent the charity and have lots of fun in the process.