- Date published: 11 Sep 2018 by Karis Harbertson
Hi! My name is Karis and I’m a 22-year-old Geordie. University drew me away from my small hometown of South Shields to Manchester almost 3 years ago. I recently graduated from the University of Manchester with a degree in Biomedical Science.
I’ve dreamed of becoming a doctor since I was small and I used to cover my little sisters in plasters, much to my parent’s dismay. I currently work as a Healthcare Assistant in Manchester and when I’m not there you can find me watching movies with my flatmates or volunteering. I love to read, and I adore anything Disney or musical theatre related - I once applied for a job in Disney World Florida when I was just 13 but my parents wouldn’t let me go. I think I understand why now!
How did you first hear about Rainbow Trust and why did you decide to volunteer?
When I was two my little sister came into my life. It quickly became apparent that she wasn’t quite like the other kids her age and she was diagnosed with a rare chromosome disorder. Since then, I have been helping care for her alongside my parents. When I moved to Manchester, I realised a big part of my life was now missing. My parents suggested I find a charity to volunteer with alongside my work with Alzheimer’s Society and Manchester Dogs Home. I had heard wonderful things about the work Rainbow Trust does and was thrilled to find that they operated in Manchester too.
What do you enjoy most about your volunteering?
I love it all! So far most of my time has been spent with the siblings of poorly children and I can empathise with how they feel when they see the attention and care their sibling is getting. I enjoy being there for them and helping them realise that they have someone they can chat to; who is rooting for them. I have thoroughly enjoyed learning lots of new things, such as how to prepare for a teddy bear picnic where the bears are all vegetarian (but they still eat chicken) or how to set up the best race track the world has ever seen (eat your heart out Top Gear!). Best of all, I enjoy the beaming smiles on the faces of the kids I get to know and feeling as though I’ve made a difference.
Can you describe a typical day volunteering and what it involves?
Every day of volunteering with Rainbow Trust is different. Before my final exams, I worked closely with a little boy in his family home. His favourite thing was cars and so we used to spend our time reading books and playing race cars. I was also fortunate enough to spend a lot of time in Ronald McDonald house with two little girls who had a poorly sibling in the hospital just next door. My presence meant that Mum and Dad could go visit the hospital and the siblings had plenty of one-on-one time to play. So far, I have become an expert in Hama Beads, and I can name every single one of the Paw Patrol characters!
Do you have a particularly distinctive memory from your volunteering so far?
My favourite memory of volunteering with Rainbow Trust so far has been a recent visit to the children’s oncology ward. I met an amazing young girl, who despite being quite poorly, had a smile that lit up the room. I’m not much of a runner but this little girl had me sprinting around the playroom singing ‘Let It Go’. I’m not ashamed to say I know all of the words and I was honoured to play the role of Sven the Reindeer in our re-enactment of the movie Frozen (I was really hoping to be a Princess, but I was outvoted and deemed ‘too old’). At the end of the visit when I reluctantly had to leave, she asked her Mum if I could come back every day that she was on the ward. It made me feel all warm inside.
If you were to meet someone who was considering volunteering for Rainbow Trust what would you say to them?
I say give it a go 100%. There is nothing more challenging and yet rewarding than working with kids. I get up on days that I’m volunteering and I’m excited about what we’ll get up to. If you can make one person smile and laugh in your visit, you’re doing it right.
Volunteering with Rainbow Trust is priceless and gives you and those you help a feeling that is priceless. To recite one of my favourite quotes: “We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give - Winston Churchill”.
Inspired to get involved?