Milton Keynes volunteer shares King’s Garden Party experience

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A Milton Keynes man who has dedicated 40 years of his life to volunteering has spoken of his “delight” at being recognised for his hard work at the recent Royal Garden Party held at Buckingham Palace.

Roger Brewer, 79, began his volunteering journey at the complex mental health charity St Andrew’s Healthcare, which has its head office in Northampton, in 1985. Since joining he has become a regular face across the hospital site, where he regularly visits patients and helps out at events.

To celebrate his commitment to the charity, Roger and fellow long-term volunteer Mary Oxley, 94, who has served 22 years, were both invited to the Royal engagement.

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Dawn Wright, the charity’s Voluntary Service Manager, said “All our volunteers are hugely valued, but Mary and Roger are two of our longest-serving volunteers. They have both made such an impact to the lives of our patients, and it was a really proud moment for me to see them at Buckingham Palace where they got to meet the King himself.

Roger before he went inside Buckingham PalaceRoger before he went inside Buckingham Palace
Roger before he went inside Buckingham Palace

“They thoroughly deserve to be recognised for the work they do with us and I’m thrilled they received these highly coveted invites. It was a day we’ll all remember.

“Roger really is one of a kind as there’s not many 79-year-olds who can speak Bengali, Mandarin and Urdu. He even has an O-Level in Punjabi and is currently learning Punjabi sign language so he can communicate with a Deaf patient.

“He’s a much-loved member of our Voluntary Services Team, and is often seen helping out with office work and supporting our events. Roger is very good at noticing when additional help is needed – and he appears just in time, to give it – wherever that may be.

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“Both Roger and Mary are dedicated, wonderful people who have quite simply changed lives. I cannot tell you how much their visits mean to our patients, many of whom do not have any family.”

Roger when he was inside the groundsRoger when he was inside the grounds
Roger when he was inside the grounds

Roger’s work goes way beyond St Andrew’s, he spends six days a week traveling to Northampton, London, Aylesbury and Oxford to volunteer at prisons, NHS Trusts and in the community as an Honorary Chaplain, with him also recently accepting a volunteering role on an NHS Safety Panel.

When asked why he has chosen to dedicate so much of his time to volunteering, Roger said: “I just love people. I don’t judge them. I’m solely here to make people’s lives better. I always take on the interests of the person who I’m talking with, for example, I hate football – but I often show a passion for it to see the joy in the person’s eyes!

“The Garden Party was a perfect day and I felt so honoured and proud to be inside the grounds of Buckingham Palace. King Charles made a real effort to meet as many people as he could.”

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To help make his visit even more memorable, Roger had even drafted a personal letter to the King to outline what his role at St Andrew’s involves and to explain more about the charity.

Roger when he was inside the groundsRoger when he was inside the grounds
Roger when he was inside the grounds

He added: “When he was Prince, Charles came to visit St Andrew’s in 2000. I thought it would be helpful to write him a letter with photos of his visit, reminding him about it and outlining how the charity has developed since he last came. I also invited him to visit again. King Charles promised to read it, so I’m very hopeful that he will agree to return to see us all again one day.”

St Andrew’s Healthcare’s CEO Dr Vivienne McVey said: “What a momentous day for our charity to have representatives at the Royal Garden Party. We are immensely proud and appreciative of our volunteers – who do amazing things for our patients – but the number of years that Mary and Roger have clocked up between them is astounding. It was only right that they were invited to Buckingham Palace where they were recognised for their commitment to the charity and it sounds like it was a very memorable day for them.”

For anyone who would like to find out further information about volunteering opportunities at St Andrew’s Healthcare, click here.