21-27 May 2018, National Volunteer Week. This week marks not only National Palliative Care Week (20-26) but also National Volunteer Week across Australia.
We take this opportunity to remember the work and roles of volunteers attached to palliative care services and non-government organisations that support adults and young people in many and various ways.
Across NSW there are some 1,600 palliative care volunteers, up from about 1,200 some 4 years ago.
This year we'd like to highlight 2 reflections from volunteers that were published in our 2017 report Collecting stories from Palliative Care Volunteers: Narratives, empathy and insight, these from volunteers Sarah and Kevin. Each volunteer was asked to 'describe a special moment in your life as a palliative care volunteer':
There have been many, because it is such a privilege to be allowed to sit with people in the final stage of their life and hear their stories, but one that stands out was when a young man had just told me about his prognosis and suddenly looked at me and said, “Thank you.” I asked what he was thanking me for, and he said, “You didn’t offer a platitude, or try to make me feel better about it. You just listened, and you heard, and that means a lot.” Then we both cried! Sarah
I walked into the ward for my first visit of the morning. A little old lady was smiling at me from her bed. I introduced myself, with my usual spiel and greeted her with friendly smile. She responded: “Hello, my name is Mary. I’m 95 years old. I was neglected by my family when I was a child! …” I was completely thrown with her response. When I had regained my composure we talked about how it felt to carry that burden through her life and the loss that rejection had caused. As parents we never know the influence our words and actions can have on our children. Kevin
Earlier, in 2016, we had asked volunteers to write a reflection or story about their experiences in palliative care as part of our Your Story competition. Both Heidi Hodder and Donna MacKenzie were joint winners and their volunteering story (Heidi) and poem (Donna) have now been published in The Changing Face of Volunteering in Hospice and Palliative Care, edited by Ros Scott and Steven Howlett and published by Oxford University Press (released 26 April 2018). Congratulations to you both.
Each year volunteers help to ease the distress and discomfort that can accompany the palliative and end of life period for patients, families and carers across NSW.
Thank you one and all for helping to make the story of palliative care more hopeful.
Pic: From our volunteer forum in Mt Druitt, April 2018