Tuesday 21 May 2019

Helping children in hospital

Emma Gallagher

For many children, hospitals can be a very daunting experience as they are away from their friends and family and in an environment they are generally not used of.

Since 1970, volunteers from the Children in Hospital Ireland organisation have been helping children and their parents during their hospital stay, playing with the children and offering respite to their mums and dads.

Sligo University Hospital is among the hospitals where these helpful volunteers offer valuable support to families.

There are currently 13 volunteers there at present and the organisation said that ideally they would love to double this number.

They are holding an information and interview evening this evening in the hospital where people can come along and find out more about the volunteering programme.

Gabrielle Armstrong is one of the volunteers and she told the Sligo Champion that she is really enjoying the work.

The Ballyshannon woman added: "I was always involved in working with children and helped out in schools. I wanted to do something else and came across the volunteering for children's hospitals and I thought it was a great idea.

"I went along to one of the information days in Sligo hospital and learned about the type of work that's involved.

"I volunteer every Tuesday afternoon from 2-4pm. It suits me as I also work parttime as a beautician in Ballyshannon.

"My kids are all grown up so that means I have the time to do it too.

"What the volunteering entails is us being in the play-room with the children and there's loads of toys, lego, cards etc all those things to entertain them. Some of the children might have to fast for example and when that's happening it's hard to keep them entertained so we might do painting with them or play cards and make puzzles. A lot of the time too a parent may have another child in with them and we can bring that child to the playroom and let mum and dad spend time with the child who is in hospital."

Gabrielle said that it is about making the hospital stay as comfortable as possible for the children. "It can be a stressful time for them and that's where we the volunteers come in. Say at Christmas time we decorate the place, put up a tree and I do the artwork that the children can hang up on the wall."

Gabrielle said the reaction from parents has been very positive. "The parents are always very thankful and so glad that they can count on us to help entertain the children say when doctors come in to talk to the parents and the child may be giddy, we would play cards or monopoly with them.

"It is very rewarding and the children are very happy and I go home knowing that I've helped in some way," Gabrielle added.

The details regarding the information evening in the hospital is as follows: The Information and Interview Evening takes place this evening, Tuesday 11th September at 6pm in the Lecture Room, Library - Sligo University Hospital. Please register by calling 01 2903510 or emailing for more.

Sligo Champion