Phoebe had been thinking about doing some volunteering for a while. She wanted to create an element of service in her life; to be able to contribute to a greater purpose. She was especially interested in the possibility of volunteering for Hospice. She had always felt that although dying is a natural part of life, it’s something that is rarely discussed until you have no choice but to deal with it.”
I hope that through being involved with Hospice it will feel like a more natural, normal and safe process,” she says. “I want to break that taboo of talking about dying – after all, it’s something that we will all go through.”
Phoebe contacted Hospice West Auckland and joined their volunteering onboarding programme.
“The training the team gives us is amazing,” says Phoebe. “It starts with volunteer evenings where you learn about what the organisation does and all of the ways it supports patients and their families. Then you learn about the different types of volunteering roles, such as in the retail shops, Patient and Family volunteers, or specialised End of Life volunteers.” The Patient and Family volunteer role particularly appealed to Phoebe, and she continued on to receive training on all aspects of that role, including ethics, ways to provide comfort and engagement and self-care practices. Additional training and guidance is also given once you are assigned to a patient, so that volunteers are confident in what to expect and can provide the best possible support within their visits.
As a Patient and Family volunteer, Phoebe’s main role is to provide companionship to patients, which could be at their home or in residential care facilities. At her weekly patient visits she is guided by their wishes. “It’s however they want to spend our time together,” she explains. “It could be something practical like crafting or sorting through photos, reading or playing games, or it might just be sitting together looking at the garden. I’m there to support them in whichever way they will enjoy the most.” At Hospice we know that volunteering is a rewarding and empowering way to make a difference to someone’s life – something that Phoebe completely agrees with. “I’m really enjoying this companionship role and getting so much out of it. There’s a lovely sense of connection with the patients. Having the opportunity to form a relationship and bring some happiness at a difficult and painful time is really special. And seeing the difference that a little bit of your time can make to someone’s life is very humbling.”
Phoebe says she has so much respect for Hospice West Auckland: “There is a wonderful, reassuring perspective that end of life is normal and safe, and that helps you to live really presently in the moment. And we create an environment where it’s okay to experience and acknowledge all of those tough emotions, to feel sad and grieve in a safe, understanding place.”
“If you are thinking about volunteering, I definitely recommend reaching out to Hospice. They give you heaps of support, and there’s also a real community feel within Hospice for the volunteers. I feel really valued, and I know that the small amount of time I spend genuinely makes a difference.”