Living, Caring, Sharing and Volunteering

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Today I turned up to the local hospice for my first day as a volunteer.  I felt like the new kid on the first day at school.  I had no idea what to expect although I knew that I was helping distribute the lunches to the patients.

Volunteering has always been part of my life from membership on various committees to being a part of the Breast Cancer Support System and being a member of the Executive Board of the Cancer Society Wellington branch.

My involvement with the Mary Potter Hospice goes back many years to a time when the hospice was located in the then named Calvary Hospital in Wellington.  The hospital was run by a nursing order The Little Sisters of Mary and the ground floor housed 24 beds that were given over to the terminally ill.  I remember pushing the drinks trolley around before dinner for the patients, way back when we first arrived in Wellington.

The hospice was forced to shift premises and the people of Wellington through the Mary Potter Foundation raised $6.3million to build a new hospice.  This was in the late 80s shortly after the share market crash.  And it was a huge sum to be raised by such a small community.

My late husband was on the Finance Board and was involved in much fund-raising.  My daughter and I, not to be left out of any of his activities, organized and ran a ‘fun-run’.  If that isn’t an oxymoron then I don’t know what is.

So now to 2011.  Last week I met with the Volunteer Manager who showed me around the place, seemed to be impressed with what I had done and what I could do and asked whether just for starters, I could help with lunches on Thursday as one of the volunteers was seriously ill in hospital.  Of course I said yes.  I turned up as required shortly after 11 am this morning not knowing what to expect.

The support organization, office staff, fund-raisers, maintenance and ground staff, kitchen staff etc, etc is all run as a business.

The caring is run as it should be.  Nothing appears to be too much trouble for any of the staff involved with the patients.  And those volunteers that I met today were equally caring.

There was sadness as while I was there one man died.  I am told it was not unexpected but there was great respect shown by everybody on the floor when his body was moved from his room.  Everybody stood up and all the doors to other areas, patients rooms, offices etc were closed as the body was wheeled out.

My job was to assist the person delivering the meals.  The meals are all prepared and cooked on the premises by a first class cook.  He said he wasn’t a chef ‘just a cook’.  Prior to the meal service patients were asked would they like a drink before lunch.  There is a full choice of spirits, wines, soft drinks and sodas.  The idea is to make it as much like patients’ routines at home as possible.

Then lunch.  Soup and bread was served amidst some laughter and jokes. Each tray held a posy of flowers prepared by another group of volunteers.

We then went down to the kitchen to get the main meal.  Today this was braised sausages, with choice of boiled potatoes, mashed potatoes, roast pumpkin and a medley of zucchini, tomatoes and onions.  All beautifully presented to the patients.

While the patients had their lunch we went to the cafe and had ours. Then it was time to remove the patients’ lunch plates (having removed the soup cups and plates before taking in the lunch) and offer desert.

Desert consisted of fresh fruit salad, jelly, ice cream and fresh cream.  Most people welcomed that even those who had only had soup beforehand.

I was amazed at the fortitude with which some people face their impending death; with the good humor that prevailed in the hospice, and the love and caring of the staff and the respect for all that is shown there,

I shall certainly return next week to do lunches again.

Today’s quote is

“It is one of the most beautiful compensations of this life that no man can sincerely try to help another without helping himself.”  Ralph Waldo Emerson 1803- 1882. American lecturer, philosopher, essayist, and poet.

More information on the hospice movement may be found by clicking here

5 responses to “Living, Caring, Sharing and Volunteering

  1. Pingback: Remember the Ten Run: Still Needs Volunteers! | Oklahoma State University Service-Learning Volunteer Center

  2. Marianne in London

    I know hospices are all caring Bill was in St Josephs in Hackney. He was only there for two days and died on the third, they treat all their patients with such caring & respect. I really do admire you for volunteering. Love you lots X


  3. Hi Judith, my name is Suzy Clark and I am an ex nurse from Mary Potter Hospice, I worked there from 2003 until I left in june 2008, i injured my back while working a night shift and sadly can no longer return to nursing and I was also moving up here to Northland to remarry. Reading your description of your first day of volunteering at the Hospice has really made me miss it even more. It wasnt just my job , hospice was my passion and I hope to retrain into either counselling or social work so I can once again work at a Hospice. Mary Potter hospice wouldnt survive without the caring and dedication from volunteers such as yourself. It is a happy place as you describe, but can also be sad too. I will never forget holding the hand of a 29 year old man dying of bowel cancer in room 6 ,leaving behind a young wife and two young children, that broke my heart, but I left work that afternoon shift knowing that I had done everything possible to make his last days as comfortable as I possibly could. I will always hold Mary Potter Hospice in the highest regard, they do a tremendous job in Wellington. You will definitely enjoy your time there, as I did and many others before me. thank you for sharing your experience with us over the internet. May God Bless you. Kind regards, Suzy Clark ( suzanne Jones when I worked at MPH)


  4. Hi Suzy. Lovely to hear from you. I have been a staunch supporter of MPH for as long as I can remember. I wrote a couple of weeks ago about Thursday afternoon blues – – did you see it?
    I just love being involved and am about to be more so when I work with the education coordinator on Grief and Loss.
    Thanks for commenting and for subscribing.


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