Among St Luke’s fantastic volunteers there’s a special person who’s packed an impressive amount into her young life and is a great inspiration to all around her, whatever their age!
A familiar face at the specialist unit at Turnchapel, where she gives her time to help on reception and serve in the Driftwood Cafe, 17-year-old Esperanza Merry was recently named Volunteer of the Month by Improving Lives Plymouth. Meeting Espi, as she likes to be known, it’s easy to see why – her enthusiasm for giving back to St Luke’s, which cared for her grandfather at the end of his life, bubbles over.
“I was incredibly close to my grandfather and losing him was very hard,” said Espi, who is half Peruvian and grew up in Plymouth. “I wanted to honour him, and volunteering at St Luke’s is an important part of that. Being on reception and working in the Cafe means I frequently meet families visiting a loved one, and I can really relate to some of what they must be feeling.”
Espi is not a ‘typical teenager’. By the age of 11 she had competed in – and won – over 40 tennis tournaments worldwide. However, in 2011 a life-threatening infection in her hip led to septic arthritis and not only did this impact her professional tennis career, she was expected to be in wheelchair for the rest of her life. With the help of surgery, physiotherapy and her own grit and determination though, she gradually progressed to walking on crutches and then completely unsupported, although she still has to deal with constant pain.
Inspirational Espi made her mark along the way, becoming the world junior champion in wheelchair tennis. Although it was a huge part of her life, she has since retired from the sport to follow other interests. As part of this, she is studying business at City College.
Listening to Espi, it’s clear she is very happy to juggle her studies and volunteering. It’s also obvious that this is someone who relishes a challenge!
“Due to my experience of hospitals, I’m not phased by the hospice environment but volunteering on reception was daunting at first,” she said. “I want to work on my weaker areas though, and this is really helping to build my confidence. Plus, I’m surrounded by people who are an inspiration to me – the staff, fellow volunteers and the patients and their families.”
Find out more here: https://www.stlukes-hospice.org.uk/volunteering/