Sustainable Development Goals


Volunteers help children through their time in hospital

More than 500 students from UCL have helped young patients get through their stays in hospital by volunteering with the team of play specialists in the university’s teaching hospitals.

An image of a child playing with blocks

16 December 2020

UCL Hospitals has a team of play specialists, who work in its paediatric and A&E departments. They spend time, talk and play games with children and young people to distract them from their hospital stay. However, the play specialists only work during the daytime.

“We try to fill that gap and help young patients get through their time in hospital,” says Amrutha Koppula (UCL Medical School 4), Hospital Coordinator of the award-winning  UCL Hospital Fun Team volunteering project.

Since the project started in 2014, more than 500 students have volunteered to support the hospital’s play specialists. In 2020 it was runner-up in the National Societies & Volunteering Association’s ‘Committee Excellence’ award.

“We try to provide entertainment, relief and a sense of normality to their experience in hospital,” adds Gertheka Sritharan (UCL Medical School 5), a Hospital Coordinator with the project.

Each of the students volunteers on an evening or a weekend day at the UCL, Royal Free and Whittington hospitals in London.

“We try to fill that gap and help young patients get through their hospital stay.”

In return, the volunteers get valuable experience working with children and adolescents, and gain some clinical exposure in the hospital departments.

“Having the student volunteers come for two evenings plus one weekend day has given our patients something to look forward to in the evenings,” says Laura Walter, one of UCL Hospital’s play specialists.

“Play has many therapeutic benefits for children in hospital and research has shown that play speeds up the recovery process. Our long-term and chronic patients have built a great rapport with the students and always look forward to their visits.”

UCL Hospital Fun is one of the many initiatives supported by the Students’ Union UCL Volunteering Service, which connects students with community volunteering opportunities across London.