Celebrating National Volunteer Week: April 23-29, 2017

While she’s been part of the Children’s volunteer team for over a year and a half, Doris Albert has volunteered exclusively on Sarah’s Floor (the Hematology-Oncology Unit at the Children’s) for the past 6 months. “I feel like I’m able to really make a difference in these families lives by helping to provide a break to parents while I babysit their child for a little while,” she explains.

Through her interaction with patients, Doris likes to get to know what games they enjoy and what might get a patient to smile or laugh. “I recently was visiting with a little girl who was very sad, and I had trouble reaching her. I decided to show her an animated movie about a little sandpiper bird; it’s only about 6 minutes long…and it made her laugh! I really felt good about being able to offer her a few moments of laughter. Most of the time, I feel like I leave the hospital feeling like I’ve helped someone, and that<s really what motivates me to keep coming back.”

Before he became a weekly volunteer in the Hemodialysis Unit at the Children’s, Andrew Sharp enjoyed a 40-year career as a civil engineer working on projects in various locations around the world. But when it came time to retire, he knew he wanted to try something new. “Having once been a cancer patient myself at the Montreal General Hospital, I met many great volunteers while I underwent 6 months of chemotherapy,” he explains. “I really appreciated their presence, and when it came time to decide what to do when I retired, I thought of volunteering my own time in a hospital with kids.”

For the past 4 years, Andrew has dedicated 3 to 4 hours a week to helping out in the Hemodialysis Unit, and sometimes moves around to other areas of the hospital as needed. The most rewarding part of the experience, he says, are the relationships he has built with staff members and patients along the way. “Just knowing that I’m helping make a parent’s, a nurse’s or a patient’s day a little bit easier…that’s what keeps me coming back.”

Susan Murdock knows what it’s like to have a child in hospital. Her son was 14 years old when he was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease, and required life-saving surgery at the Children’s that has allowed him to live a normal life as a now 22-year old. The experience had a big impact on Susan, who says she was motivated from that moment on to give back. “I always tell my friends and family that volunteering is the best paid job in the world,” she says. “You get paid in gratitude, compassion, empathy and kindness. Yes, we may be helpful to patients and families, but I truly think we’re the ones who benefit the most from giving our time.”

Having been a volunteer for over three years, Susan spreads her time between the Pediatric and Neonatal Intensive Care Units, and has also worked on the 8th and 9th floors. “I usually see patients who are hospitalized for a long period of time, and help hold, feed and rock babies to sleep so that their parents can take a break. I also try to help lend a hand in any way I can to the nursing team,” she explains. “For me, what’s most rewarding is knowing that I’m providing a child or a parent a break from what they’re living, even for a short while…that’s why I’m here. It’s a good feeling to give back.”

Yue Qi first began volunteering at the Children’s over two years ago to fulfill a volunteering requirement for admission into the Physiotherapy program at McGill University. “That and I really liked that the old hospital was close to Dawson,” he says. But when his career plans changed and he was admitted to the Exercise Science Program at Concordia University, Yue kept his volunteering commitment at the Children’s and hasn’t looked back.

Every week, he spends time with 13-year old Loïc, a resident patient at the Children’s. The two like to chat about Japanese culture and anime and play around with Loïc’s growing collection of Styrofoam swords. “My goal is not only to encourage him to be active when spend time together, but also to get him to talk about what’s of interest to him,” says Yue. “I find that I learn a lot from him. Despite being in the hospital, he has a huge capacity to learn things on his own, just by browsing the internet or reading things on social media. When he mentions something to me and I don’t know about it, I’m motivated to Google it and learn more about it, and it challenges me to keep learning too.”

Yue says the best part about volunteering is that he can help entertain a patient and share his time with someone who truly appreciates it. “I guess you could say that I started volunteering because I had to,” says Yue. “But things are different now, mostly because of Loïc. I now come to willingly give my time, and it makes me feel good.”