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Malcolm’s story

Malcolm’s story

Fern Centre volunteer Malcolm
Fern Centre volunteer Malcolm Clarke

Malcolm Clarke, 81, from Bideford, starting volunteering for Royal Devon Hospitals Charity after losing his wife and a close friend to cancer. At the time, he was struggling to come to terms with his loss but was determined to fulfil his wife’s dying wish that he try to live his life to the full.

Malcolm volunteers his time in a number of different ways. He can often be found welcoming patients to the charity’s Fern Centre with a cup of tea, a friendly smile and a chat. As an artist, Malcolm also volunteers his time to run art therapy workshops at the cancer and wellbeing centre at North Devon District Hospital. Some of his paintings are on sale in the main hospital, and Malcolm also puts his musical talents to good use by playing keyboard to dementia patients at the hospital.

Fern Centre volunteer Malcolm

“Before my wife died, she made me promise that I would carry on and live my life to the full,” said Malcolm, who was treated for cancer himself in 2009.

“I have to say at that time I was in a very dark place and struggling to cope but decided that I would honour her last wishes and try to rebuild my life.

“After about six years of trying to find something to fill my days, I found art and became an enthusiastic painter. At the time, Over and Above (now known as Royal Devon Hospitals Charity) was raising money to build the Fern Centre and I started volunteering for the charity to give something back in return for all the care the staff and the hospital had given my wife and I.”

The Fern Centre opened in 2020 and offers free advice, counselling and complementary therapies to cancer patients and their families in North Devon.

“It is an amazing place run by understanding and caring staff and volunteers and I am proud to say that I am part of that team,” said Malcolm.

Fern Centre volunteer Malcolm

“Not only has it enabled me to keep my promise to my dear wife, but it has changed my whole outlook and I have found solace in listening to people who are going through the same things and want to share their own feeling over a chat and a cup of tea or coffee.

“For me, this is such a rewarding thing to do and the Fern Centre has provided me with this opportunity. It is so important to have somewhere to go and be able to talk to someone who has perhaps been through a similar experience and understand what you may be feeling.”

“In conclusion, I am now 81 and feel like a 21-year-old! This has been brought about by being a member of a terrific team and I am very grateful to charity and Fern Centre staff for the way they have helped me, by enabling me to be a small cog in a very large and compassionate organisation”

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