Sunday 25 February 2018

Volunteers need help making Wexford Hospital a happier place for children

Volunteer and team leader Laura Blake at Wexford Hospital with Lorraine and Marie Fitzgerald
Volunteer and team leader Laura Blake at Wexford Hospital with Lorraine and Marie Fitzgerald

Maria Pepper

An organisation dedicated to the welfare of children in hospital,is looking for volunteers to visit young patients in Wexford General Hospital.

Children in Hospital Ireland (CHI) is a nationwide, not-for-profit group which was founded in 1970 by parents of sick children, with the aim of making hospital a happier place for children through play and advocacy and ensuring that children's emotional and developmental needs are met.

There are currently 480 volunteers around the country providing 43,000 hours of play each year but more recruits are needed in Wexford.

Local play volunteer and team leader Laura Blake has been involved in CHI since 2004 when she read a local newspaper article requesting volunteers for the playroom at St. Gabriel's Ward in Wexford General.

'It is so rewarding to bring a little bit of happiness to children during their stay in hospital which can often be a very stressful experience for patients and their families', said Laura.

'On a typical day, we will set up the playroom and visit each ward to see if patients would like to participate in painting, colouring jigsaws, art/crafts, board games, reading, free play or even to just come for a chat.'

'If children are confined to their beds we offer to brings things up to the ward for them. We often like to keep children company and organise bedside board games, play cards or read stories.'

Laura said it is a constant delight to see the look of anticipation on children's faces when the volunteers visit the wards, with young patients occasionally leaping out of bed and asking 'can we go to the playroom now'.

'It is special moments like this that make volunteering with CHI so worthwhile. Parents also tell us it is great for them to be given the time out to have a cup of tea, a shower or to do some shopping knowing that their child is with someone who genuinely wants to be with them, and that they are happy and in safe hands.'

After 13 years as a play volunteer, Laura said she can honestly say it is the 'most enjoyable and rewarding work' that anyone could do.

'It can be so uplifting and a very happy experience to know that you are making a difference to children and their families. I feel very grateful and privileged to have been given this opportunity,' she said.

 Guillaume Rouy who had previous experience of working in kids camps in France, is the first male volunteer to join the Wexford team and he said he would encourage everyone, especially men, to consider volunteering.

Guillaume opted to give two hours a week to children going through difficult times and added that the experience has been terrific, allowing him to build new friendships with fellow volunteers.

Another Wexford volunteer Catherine White said she is glad to be able to take some of the work away from parents and to lift the spirits of children who have to spend time in hospital through illness or injury.

'We can see how busy the A&E and the outpatients clinic can be and it's rewarding to be able to help the children forget they are away from home and distract them with games

'I get as much joy as the children do and it is always nice to see them leave with a smile on their faces and some pleasant memories from their stay,' said Catherine.

Volunteer Bernie Roche said she also finds it very rewarding to help children and their parents to relax and de-stress while Tina O'Rourke, who has been a volunteer for six months, said it is a 'good feeling' and 'great fun' to know that she is helping the young patients and their siblings.

The Wexford CHI group needs more volunteers to be able to offer increased support in the St. Gabriel's Ward playroom and the busy children's outpatients clinic.

• If you would like to attend an Introduction and Interviewing Evening in Wexford General Hospital on Thursday, September 7, from 6 pm to 8 pm, contact CHI on 01 2903510 or to register. A Volunteer Training Day will follow on Saturday, September 23 from 10 am to 4 pm. If you cannot get involved as a play leader, there are other ways in which you can offer support.

Gorey Guardian

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