Every day here at Austin Health, 509 volunteers make a difference to the lives of patients and their families, staff and other volunteers. For a group of volunteers at the Olivia Newton-John Cancer Wellness & Research Centre (ONJ Centre), bringing kindness to somebody’s day is all the motivation they need.
Gathering for a cuppa and a quick chat before heading off to the wards, Philip, Gwenda, Leonie, Sheryl and Linda share an obvious passion for caring and being kind to others.
Leonie, a volunteer for five years in Day Oncology, supported her sister who spent her last months in Palliative Care, and understands just how stressful cancer diagnosis and treatment is.
“I know how gruelling treatment for cancer can be and how emotional, tired and vulnerable people often are in Day Oncology. It’s such a wonderful feeling to be able to soften the experience a little by making someone smile, laugh, relax and enjoy a chat.”
Now in her fifth year, Sheryl began as a volunteer after she lost her sister to cancer.
“We had spoken about getting involved in the Wellness Centre when she was better. I knew that I wanted to fulfil my sister’s dream of being part of the ONJ Centre together and helping people through their cancer journey. I feel grateful for being able to make a difference to somebody’s day.”
Support Services Officer for Volunteer Services, Julie Gabell, loves working with volunteers – people who are kind and who love to bring joy or comfort to others.
“There is something wonderful about volunteers. They offer things to patients that mean a lot to that patient, even if it seems like they are only offering something small. Sometimes it’s a drink, sometimes it’s a smile, sometimes in offering their kindness, a patient can find their hospital experience a little less overwhelming.”
Philip, Gwenda, Leonie, Sheryl and Linda often don’t know the significance of their work, yet for a patient, an encounter with a volunteer becomes a story of kindness that means so much and can be shared so often.
Julie describes one such story.
“Recently a Lort Smith trained dog was brought in by one of our ONJ Centre volunteers. They went into a patient waiting area, and the dog just quietly lay on the floor amongst the waiting patients in their seats.
“One patient who had been waiting a while noticed the dog lying on the floor. She got off her seat, and lay on the floor with the dog, hugging him tight and holding him in silence until her appointment was due. The doctor came over and saw his patient on the floor. He looked at the volunteer and said, ‘This is why we need volunteers here’.
“The story that was created that day was able to touch the lives of all who heard and saw it. The truth of this story for the volunteer is that she came in to make a difference to at least one person’s day, and that was all that was in it for her.”
In National Volunteers Week, we recognise the kindness, hope, comfort and joy our volunteers bring to patients and their families every day, making a stressful time just that little bit easier.
If you think volunteering might be for you, please contact Volunteer Services to find out more.
Phone 9496 2370