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Celebrating National Volunteer Week

Friday, 27 May 2022

From 16 to 22 May 2022 we celebrated National Volunteer Week - Australia’s largest annual celebration of volunteers.
For more than 50 years, volunteers have supported the vital work of Barwon Health and have enhanced our services.
While volunteering looks a little different now while we continue to work through the pandemic, Barwon Health is proud to have the support of hundreds of dedicated volunteers who generously donate their time each year across the organisation.
Read below to hear the stories of five dedicated volunteers who give their time to support our patients.

Chon’s volunteer story
“I have been volunteering for five years and work in the Palliative Care Unit. Both my parents had cancer and we had some help from volunteers while they were sick. After they died, I decided I wanted to do something to give back so I joined Barwon Health’s Volunteer Service. It can be a long day for patients when they’re in hospital, especially for those who don’t have many people in their lives, so I get a lot of satisfaction from being able to make a difference to their day. I enjoy providing companionship to the patients and ‘pampering’ with haircuts, manicures, and hand and foot massages when COVID restrictions allow. I love making connections with the patients and just getting in there and helping out where I can; seeing the patients smile and be so grateful is very rewarding. One of my favourite memories is of a patient who was on the Unit for quite a long time. He didn’t have friends or family visiting so we would have a ‘date’ every Tuesday where I would take him down to the café and we’d have a coffee together and chat. We ended up having some really in-depth conversations. It gave him something to look forward to each week and we’d have a great laugh together. It gave me a real sense of satisfaction to be able to be there for him in the last few months of his life.”
Bronwyne’s volunteer story
“I started volunteering in 2016, working at the information desk at University Hospital Geelong (UHG) for four years, but when the COVID-19 pandemic started I moved over to the Palliative Care Unit. I’m now part of the backyard blitz team and also help out with the bereavement walking group. With the backyard blitz team we go to patients’ homes and spend a few hours working in their garden – pruning, mowing, and weeding – whatever is needed. The walking group is on once a month and it provides an opportunity for the recently bereaved to connect with others in the same situation. I also helped out with the COVID-19 response team earlier this year packing the COVID-19 swab packs. I’m a bit of a talker so I love the interactions that volunteering provides; you get a different story from everyone and no job is the same. One of my most memorable moments was when I was working on the information desk at UHG and a lady came in as she had been called into ICU because her mother was gravely ill. I could see she was distressed and I went over and gave her a hug and took her up to ICU. I saw her later that day - her mother had died and we sat and had a coffee together while she waited for other family members to arrive. She was very grateful for the time I spent with her and I was really glad I was able to be there to support her that day. The patients and families are so appreciative of the work we do – it’s only a small thing but it means a lot.”
Rob’s volunteer story
“I’ve been volunteering for 35 years, including the past five years at Barwon Health, predominantly as a driver with the Volunteer Patient Transport Program. While COVID put a halt to the Volunteer Patient Transport Program, I kept active by volunteering in the community and was involved externally to support people who needed transport to COVID vaccination clinics. Now I’m happily supporting Barwon Health’s woodwork program at the McKellar Centre and assisting with transportation of Barwon Health aged care residents. Some of my most memorable moments as a volunteer driver have been seeing transplant recipients recover and get back to their lives, no longer needing support. I was also able to support a staff member who had spent so much time caring for patients who then become a patient themselves. I really like getting to know people’s stories, empathising with and supporting people who need assistance – it’s so rewarding being able to make a difference.”
Moira’s volunteer story
“I started volunteering in 2019 after I retired and I wanted to give back to the community. I love interacting with people and volunteering helps me to stay connected, learn new things and keep my brain active, so I enjoy working on the reception desk in the Palliative Care Unit (PCU). My favourite part about volunteering is knowing that I can make a difference for a patient or a staff member. It’s very satisfying being able to do something that frees up a nurse so they can spend more time with a patient, and I love chatting to all the patients, getting to know them and hearing their life stories. When my volunteer role was paused during the pandemic, I helped out in other ways like making phone calls to bereaved carers, making up COVID-19 swab kits and being part of the LGBTIQA+ steering committee. One of my favourite memories of volunteering (so far) involves one of the patients on PCU. He liked gardening and spent some time pruning some of the roses in one part of the PCU garden that had been a bit neglected. After the pruning the roses came back to life, and when they bloomed I was able to pick them and take them to the patient saying ‘here’s your roses’. Every week I would pick some roses and take some to him as well as give some to the staff. The joy that the roses gave everyone, particularly the patient, was just so wonderful. I will always think of him when those roses bloom - they will always be his roses.”
Heather’s volunteer story
“I’ve been a volunteer at Barwon Health for nearly 10 years. I started by supporting Alan David Lodge residents with therapy dog visits before taking on a role providing wayfinding at University Hospital Geelong. There have been many other roles along the way, like supporting the Volunteer Patient Transport Service, administration and helping out in Cardiac Rehab, which has been a highlight. In recent times I’ve been volunteering in the Voluntary Assisted Dying Program in an administrative capacity, and I’ve also helped prepare COVID swab kits earlier this year.
After retiring from pharmacy in 2012, volunteering gave me an opportunity to continue interacting with people in health-orientated settings. I have had so many special memories from my experiences as a volunteer. There was a very special moment that I shared with a patient and his family when I was visiting with my therapy dog. My dog jumped onto the patient’s bed and lay down quietly and calmly with him for about 15 minutes. The patient was a real dog lover and his family were so moved by the moment. The experience created a special memory and brought huge comfort.
Although COVID halted many things, I’ve enjoyed staying active and involved and continue to support my community and Barwon Health in any way I can.”