There are lots of reasons why our volunteers choose to support Devon Air Ambulance. A few of our 550+ volunteers have shared their reasons for getting on board with us here. 

Read about why volunteering is so rewarding

The Golden Girls of Barnstaple

Not long after the Barnstaple shop opened in July 2005, Rose came along and introduced herself to manager Averil. Rose, now in her seventies, quickly became a valued member of the team and a hit with the customers.

Shortly after Rose joined, Janet offered her services and Rose and Janet became firm friends. Despite living in Ilfracombe and having to commute by bus three times a week, Janet also proved an asset to the shop with Averil soon recognising her many skills and strengths, often relying on Janet to run the shop in her absence.

Sadly Marie was widowed and found herself at a loose end with time on her hands. From visiting the shop as a customer over many years, Marie, then 90, plucked up the courage to ask if she could be of any help.

The team welcomed her with open arms and joined Rose and Janet. The three have become known as The Golden Girls or, affectionately, The Three Wise Monkeys. From sorting to steaming and from displaying goods to serving customers, every day is different and the shop is filled with the sound of laughter and fun. Such is their friendship, they now go on regular breaks together, including a week in a Blackpool hotel.

These three are amongst a team of volunteers who regularly help out in our Barnstaple shop, all playing an important role and all helping Averil to achieve the accolade of 2014 Manager of the Year. A fourth Wise Monkey, volunteer Steve, even cut short his holiday one summer in order to pick Marie up from the shop on her 90th birthday – to take her for a spin on his motorbike!

When volunteering pays off

Margaret and Jeff Lilley are volunteers in Totnes who have been donating their time to the DAA since Feb 2015. Little did they know that two years later the Devon Air Ambulance would be airlifting their 8-year-old grandson Ryan Lilley to Derriford Hospital following a scooter accident.

Margaret originally started volunteering at our Totnes shop after seeing a poster at the local hospice she worked at and thought it might be a nice way to meet new people. When Jeff retired from his 43 years in road maintenance he joined the volunteer team too. They both agree volunteering was a perfect way for them to meet new people and they love hearing customer stories, especially those who have had direct experience of being airlifted or know of family or friends who required our service. Never in a million years did they think they would be sharing the story of their grandson Ryan.

When Margaret received the call from her daughter-in-law Anna, saying that Ryan had lost his balance whilst scootering downhill causing him to tumble and lose consciousness, she couldn’t believe her ears. When the ambulance crew arrived, Ryan had started to choke and the paramedics called for the Air Ambulance to transport him to hospital as a matter of urgency. Margaret immediately made her way to the family home to comfort Ryan’s five siblings. Ryan’s elder sister Katie was beside herself.

Thankfully after spending a night in hospital Ryan made a full recovery. The family were very happy with the care he received and Ryan and his family were later invited to the airbase to meet the team who attended him. They all had a wonderful day seeing the helicopter and meeting the aircrew.

Ryan’s 16-year-old sister, Katie, now also volunteered at the shop between her college commitments, which increased her confidence gained her valuable experience for her future career prospects.

Margaret and Jeff said the incident has changed the way they feel about volunteering and they are incredibly grateful for the night flying operations that are in place, which allowed the aircrew to safety transport Ryan during evening hours.

Margaret, Jeff and Katie now appreciate why their volunteering efforts are so important to DAA. Without our DAA volunteers, we would not have the service we have today. DAA welcomes flexible volunteering and will work alongside your own commitment. A couple of hours a week is more than enough help in one of our 19 shops, service our collection boxes or attend our events.

There are many different ways to volunteer for Devon Air Ambulance – from working in our retail shops, to servicing our collection boxes and representing the charity at cheque presentations – but, what you might not realise, is that we also have a dedicated group of volunteer speakers who help raise awareness of the charity across the whole of Devon with their presentations and talks to a variety of local community and school groups. Meeting people in person, telling them about the value of the charity in Devon and of our exciting developments, really does add a personal touch - so let us introduce you to a few of our speakers, past and present.

Norman Maudsley (5 years’ service)

Norman started fundraising for DAA in 2011 when Radio Devon was involved with raising funds for our new helicopter. He initially raised £300 and then continued to raise money for DAA through his favourite pastime, travelling - Norman gives illustrated talks based on his self-funded expeditions around the world to a wide range of groups and organisations around South Devon, and donates his small speaker fee entirely to DAA.

Norman soon became a volunteer speaker for DAA and set about using his experience to promote DAA to organisations, groups and schools in the local area. While proudly wearing his volunteer t-shirt, Norman also attends cheque presentations and receives collections from fundraising events. Currently, with the generosity of Devon people, Norman has collected a staggering £12,000 for DAA and he will continue to offer DAA talks or his travel talks. 


Mike and Vera Saffin (13 years’ service)

Mike and Vera first became involved with DAA when they decided to raise funds for a local charity at their ruby wedding anniversary celebrations. At this special one-off event, surrounded by family and friends, they raised a fantastic £400. When they handed over their kind donation, they were asked if they would like to become DAA volunteers and they readily agreed. With a laptop in hand they began giving talks on behalf of DAA throughout Devon and continue to do so – as well as attending other fundraising events and assisting at Head Office.

Their 13 years' long service has seen many changes at Devon Air Ambulance – when they started in 2004, the focus was on raising awareness of the £2.5 million needed to operate our one leased helicopter, 5 days a week during daylight hours.  In 2017, we now need to raise over £5.5 million every year to keep our two wholly owned helicopters flying 7 days a week, one up until midnight each day. In 2018 the service cost £7.5 million to run.

Mike has heard some bizarre questions over the years but one which particularly stood out was “does the pilot wear a parachute?” Mike replied politely “No, he doesn’t - it wouldn’t instil confidence in the rest of the crew!”.

Mike has some words of advice for our new speakers. “You will always be nervous when entering the venue but never forget that the nice people you meet will be eager to hear your story. Be sure to thank the audience before you even begin.”

Richard and Helen Rumbold (17 years’ service)

Richard’s first contact with Devon Air Ambulance was at the Devon County Show in 2000 where the images of the helicopter on the DAA stand caught his eye. After having a long conservation with the then Chief Executive, Lynn Paver, Richard volunteered himself - and his wife Helen - to help.

This was the start of a long association with the charity which, due to ill health over recent years has meant Richard has had to retire as a volunteer speaker for DAA.

However, Richard recalls fond memories of previous talks he gave in many different locations throughout North Devon, from churches to village halls, hotels, nursing homes and community buildings. Richard particularly enjoyed giving his talk to the various Women’s Institutes in North Devon, who have always been great supporters of DAA. Richard found it most enjoyable, as he was often asked to judge the monthly competitions which at times proved to be quite a challenge!

Although Richard and Helen no longer give talks for DAA, they have built a large network of friends who still ask them to attend events and cheque presentations on behalf of DAA. People are able to see how passionate they are about the fantastic work of DAA and as such they remain very proud advocates and supporters of the charity.

Read about some of the benefits of volunteering

Register your interest in becoming a volunteer