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Award Finalist: Harriette Pearson

Posted on 16 Feb 2015

This week we are introducing you to the five students who have been shortlisted for the Student Volunteer of the Year Award. The winner will be announced at our Parliamentary Celebration on Monday 23 February.

Today, we meet Harriette Pearson, a fourth year medical student at Barts and The London School of Medicine and Dentistry (part of Queen Mary University London).


"Volunteering is the most rewarding thing I have ever done- if you are in doubt about volunteering just jump in with both feet- you won’t regret it."

In the past volunteering has meant spending time with children and young adults with learning disabilities, spending 2 weeks in India teaching at an Ashram, or waking up at the crack of dawn to cook breakfast for the homeless. Volunteering has meant meeting new people, challenging my own assumptions, and learning things that can’t be taught.

Starting in January 2014, volunteering took a different turn for me. I was volunteering officer for my university- Barts and The London School of Medicine and Dentistry- and I decided to do something a bit different. After months of planning, I was able to set up a small pilot scheme with 10 other students, volunteering in our hospital’s A&E department the long waiting times for the sick children there. Our volunteers were enthusiastic, committed, and eager for more opportunities- and it’s snowballed from there.

I now lead an excellent team of 47 volunteers (to be exact), who visit the paediatric wards of The Royal London Hospital (RLH).

Usually outside the hours of 9-5 Monday to Friday, the play room is shut, the precious toys locked away to keep them safe. The 100 children and teenagers are left with nothing to do. But that was before Project Play arrived. Our volunteers run kids clubs on Tuesdays and Saturdays- where you can see little one’s playing a big game of hide and seek in the healing space, or creating arts and crafts with the imagination only children have. The best sessions are when you see a child who is crying from pain, who is able to attend a session and bravely paint something for their Mum to take home. Kids work is play- and we help them to work. A member of staff sent me this in an email today- "A parent just stopped me in the hall to tell me how much she loved Saturday and what a difference it made!".

Thursday’s sessions are where we may have had the biggest impact - teen sessions. Adolescent care is difficult; although the members of staff at the hospital are fantastic, it is often tough to cater to the very specific needs of teenagers. Our Thursday club is only open to those aged 13 and up- and provides a chance to play games, relax, and chat to our volunteers. Watching the teens make friends with people in similar situations to themselves is hugely rewarding.

"I am constantly astounded by medical students' commitment in giving up their precious spare time to volunteering projects"

Alongside this work I have continued as volunteering officer - helping other groups at Barts continue their great work - from teaching lifesaving skills, to helping children be less afraid of the doctor with Teddy Bear Hospital. Medical students are often busy 9-5, 5 days a week. I am therefore constantly astounded by their commitment in giving up their precious spare time to volunteering projects. Barts and The London students are amazing.

So what does volunteering mean to me now? It means working through challenging situations, it means watching other volunteers work excellently with the children, it means obsessing with teenagers over JLS, and it means cooperation and working as a team. It is the most rewarding thing I have ever done- if you are in doubt about volunteering just jump in with both feet- you won’t regret it.

Alexandra Downes, Harriette Pearson and Laura Krogt in the play room with the giant Tiger


Follow #SVW2015 on Monday 4-6pm to follow our Parliamentary Celebration event and find out who wins the Student Volunteer of the Year Award!

Harriette Pearson

Harriette is a fourth year medical student at Barts and The London School of Medicine and Dentistry. She is one of 5 students shortlisted for the 2015 Volunteer of the Year Award.

Categories: Award