Tuesday 4 June 2019

In celebration of Volunteers’ Week, we’re highlighting the incredible work of volunteers Diane and Lisa, who run parent support group, Positive Touch.

As well as raising money for Royal Surrey County Hospital Charity to support babies who are born premature or sick, Positive Touch was set up in 2012 to provide a support network for families whose babies have spent time in the hospital’s Special Care Baby Unit (SCBU), by holding regular coffee mornings and events. Positive Touch became part of Royal Surrey County Hospital Charity earlier this year.A mother with her premature baby.

Diane and Lisa first started volunteering for Positive Touch four years ago. “My son was born prematurely in 2013 and spent 10 days in Royal Surrey’s SCBU,” Lisa says. “I found myself feeling lonely and didn’t have anyone that could relate to my experience. I was diagnosed with Post Natal Depression when he was a year old. This experience made me want to support other families who had had a similar journey to mine – I never wanted any parent to feel the loneliness I had felt. I am very proud of what we have and are continuing to achieve.”

It was after experiencing a 'difficult pregnancy' and giving birth to her daughter at 35 weeks that Diane first came across Positive Touch:

Everyone was so friendly and supportive; I realised I wasn’t alone which helped on so many levels.”

Positive Touch visits SCBU each week to spend time with the families, offer support and provide little gifts to help make their stay more comfortable – such as welcome packs, snacks and drinks for the kitchen, sibling packs, and gifts for special occasions, like Christmas, Father’s/Mother’s Day and World Book Day. For International Kangaroo Awareness Care Day, the group donated kangaroo care wraps to the unit to promote close contact, also known as skin-to-skin contact, between baby and parents – something which is particularly beneficial for babies who are born premature.

It’s important for families to know that there is someone there for them: the gifts we give families are a small gesture but can make all the difference to someone’s day,” explains Diane. “Everything we provide has been donated by our amazing supporters – without them, we wouldn’t be able to do the work we do.”

The work Lisa and Diane do is invaluable for families with babies in special care, as Sadie, whose daughter Sienna was born premature, explains: “The volunteers at Positive Touch made such a huge difference to our time in SCBU. From the welcome pack we received when we first arrived to the free snacks in the kitchen to ensure that we ate to keep our strength up. It’s the little human touches like this that made the whole experience a lot nicer at a very scary and unknown time.

Positive Touch has helped to make SCBU a non-clinical and friendly place; their care and understanding made us feel special and looked after. They understand that it's not just the babies that need the extra care but the mums and dads too!” 

Their passion, determination and unwavering dedication for improving care for premature or sick babies and their families led to Lisa and Diane receiving the Volunteer of the Year award at the hospital’s Royal Surrey Stars Awards in November last year.Three women holding awards.

It’s this dedication to the cause which has also inspired a number of parents who attend coffee mornings run by the group to fundraise for the unit. Bridget and her husband John are taking part in the London to Brighton Cycle Ride in September, to raise money for our Closer to Care campaign. The couple wanted to support the £500,000 appeal – which aims to redevelop the hospital’s SCBU so that parents can stay overnight next to their babies’ cots – after their daughter Zoe, now 3 years old, was born at 27 weeks and spent eight weeks in special care at Royal Surrey:

“Being apart from Zoe was horrible and I cried so much as all I wanted to do was be with her,” says Bridget. “I felt I was all alone and it was very hard for my family to understand as none of them had spent time away from their newborn babies.

Speaking about the campaign, Lisa says: “I think neonatal mental health has been at the forefront of much discussion this year, particularly with the introduction of the very first Neonatal Mental Health Awareness Week. Being able to care for their baby throughout the entirety of their stay without the distress of having to leave them, will provide parents and babies the confidence and bonding time that is much needed during what can be an emotional, stressful and isolating time." Diane agrees: “The Closer to Care campaign will completely change a families’ experience of special care. Having the opportunity for parents to stay will benefit the parents and their baby in so many ways.”

If you would like to attend a Positive Touch coffee morning, visit the group’s Facebook page or drop them an email.

We are grateful to all our wonderful volunteers who help us achieve so much more; thank you for all your support.


Become a volunteer >