It was Maria Greenwood’s terminally ill mum who suggested she become a palliative care volunteer.
Maria was nursing her through her last days of cancer at a UK hospice when she turned to her and said she should volunteer when she returned to Australia.
A few months later Maria chanced upon a newspaper ad calling for help at Mount Druitt Hospital’s palliative care ward. And soon she was one among the first intake of volunteers.
After working for many years as a medical receptionist, communicating with patients and their families is a natural talent for Maria. Her colleagues say she has a gift for connecting with palliative patients and their loved ones and is always ready to lend a sympathetic ear.
Maria’s volunteer activities include interacting with patients, sitting at their bedside and assisting with music therapy and gardening activities.
She has completed training to provide hand massage to relieve physical discomfort and to relax patients and has also learned how to help people write a biography to leave as a legacy for their families.
Maria sees it as a privilege to be allowed into someone’s life when they are at their most vulnerable and to be able to help them and their family.
She’s stunned and “over the moon” to be recognised as a Westfield Local Hero, saying it was an unexpected honour to even be nominated.
Volunteering has been the most uplifting and humbling experience,” says Maria, who has participated in every ward activity and event – from selling raffle tickets to giving up her wine for Dry July. She even visits the hospital over the Christmas break to ensure the gardens are cared for.
The hospital will use the $10,000 Westfield Local Heroes grant to help train a much-needed intake of volunteers and to up-skill the existing team.
Pic: Maria Greenwood, Volunteer at the Mt Druitt Supportive and Palliative Care Unit.