Rita's story - a visitors' centre volunteer

Hello, my name is Rita Bartle and I volunteer at HMP Deerbolt young offenders institution (near Barnard Castle).

My introduction to the work of Nepacs came when I attended a MacMillan coffee morning at the Visitor’s Centre.  I was ‘blown away’ by the wonderful, happy atmosphere and the friendliness and enthusiasm of the staff, Linda and Carolyn.  As a result, I was invited to return to ‘give it a try, see how it works’. 

Needless to say, the warm, supportive environment drew me in.  I witnessed the compassion and support shown to visitors and the easy rapport between staff and families.  It was obvious how essential this friendly place was in what must be difficult and trying times.  I immediately wanted to be part of this crucial service, realising that we all have something to contribute, we can all make a small difference to others. 

And so I ‘signed up’!

I particularly enjoy interacting with the children and keeping the play area safe and tidy for them. They are so accepting of an unusual situation but many will have travelled many miles to get here, and will need to ‘let off steam’. I help in the café but the till still seems to have a will of it’s own when I am on duty!

To see an anxious family arrive and then leave with more understanding and confidence of procedures and expectations, is very rewarding. A difficult visit is made so much easier.  The staff are just wonderful and are obviously respected and valued.

I’m not a ‘do-gooder’, I’m just a Mum and Granny trying to make a small difference to families coping in a very difficult and trying situation. I love what I do at the centre, I love being with people and I always come away feeling better than when I arrived.

My message to anyone considering volunteering? 
You will be given all the help and support you need and your level of commitment is guided by your own circumstances. 


You won’t be disappointed.