Volunteers' Stories

​​​​​​​There’s something special about volunteering

Kathleen Peterson and Mavis Snelson feel it each time they walk through the doors at Burwood Hospital. Both women help out on the mobile shop, selling everything from batteries to toiletries.

Kathleen has been volunteering at Burwood for around seven years although she’s been helping out in other community areas for over 30 years. She was drawn to Burwood Hospital because she says it’s a place where you can always help other people.

“I live nearby and when I considered places to volunteer the hospital stood out. I started off helping in Club 304, a day club for the elderly and then went on to work on the mobile shop. I’ve never looked back!” says Kathleen.

Mavis started volunteering as a young married woman and had a career as a community nurse. Once she retired she missed the daily contact with people in her community. She is now a self-confessed volunteer enthusiast. Mavis joined Civil Defence eight years ago, does meals on wheels for the Red Cross on Wednesdays and is also involved with the Spinal Trust based at Burwood.  She manages to fit in time to visit her former Nurse Maude patients at Windsor House and works with Kathleen on the mobile shop at Burwood Hospital for up to two hours each week.

“I’m a real people’s person. My husband is self-employed and after I’d retired we took a trip overseas, then I dealt with our house repairs. Rather than sit at home I looked for something else and found it at Burwood Hospital,” says Mavis.

Both women have made new friends through their volunteer work and have a real connection with the patients.

Rachael Walker is the volunteer co-ordinator for Burwood Hospital and the New Zealand Spinal Trust. She too appreciates the special ‘vibe’ at Burwood.

“People treated at Burwood tend to be long-term patients and we see them regularly over a long time. Their condition can improve dramatically from the time they arrive to when they leave us. Some come here in wheelchairs and leave walking. Whatever progress they make we can add to the positive support they receive here and it’s that connection that makes Burwood such a special place to volunteer,” says Rachael Walker.

Burwood Hospital is currently undergoing redevelopment due to be completed in early 2016. New services onsite will include Older Person’s Health and rehabilitation services which will be relocated from The Princess Margaret Hospital. By the time work is complete Burwood Hospital will have been transformed to include 230 inpatient beds and the ability to manage around 80,000 outpatient visits every year.

Pet Therapy so very special

When volunteer Professor Ian Spellerberg brings in his dogs Tinker and Bess there is no shortage of people willing to pat them.

The trio has been visiting The Princess Margaret Hospital (TPMH) wards K1 and K2 plus the Child, Youth and Family Unit (CYFU) every week for the past 18 months.
Tinker (boy) is an eight year old Golden Retriever and Bess (girl) is a 14 year old fluffy red and white Border Collie.

Ian explains that “from an early age both went to puppy schools and both took part in the national programme of obedience training for dogs – Canine Good Citizens. They have lots of certificates and both have received the gold level in the Canine Good Citizen Programme.”

Both dogs are very well behaved and they love meeting people.

“It was a natural progression to go from dog obedience competitions to dog therapy at The Princess Margaret Hospital. It took no time at all for them to start looking forward to visits where they now recognise and love seeing all their wonderful and special friends,” says Ian.

“Every week Tinker visits K1 and K2 and loves every minute of it. He makes lots of special friends, and receives lots of pats, smiles and sometimes tears of joy. Tinker’s presence prompts happy memories about much loved dogs – and other pets. Patting and talking to a friendly dog can bring a sense of calm and happiness. Some people find it easier to talk to a dog rather than a human,” says Ian.

 Bess is a special favourite in CYFU and gets a lot of attention. She just loves to cuddle up to the young people. The children love to take Tinker for a walk and basic obedience training with him.  Ian says that the very presence of the dogs prompts lots of questions and happy conversations – especially when they find out that Bess is deaf (“so sad”) and that she has taken part in fashion shoots with models wearing new season clothes (“wow!”).

Ian loves sharing his dogs with all the patients. He believes that his dogs know how people feel. He says that any voluntary work is rewarding but especially dog therapy.

“You can see the change in patient’s feeling as the dogs come up to them. All the patients are very special people and it is humbling to share my dogs with them. I do believe that dog therapy works and indeed can be very effective,” says Ian.

TPMH Volunteer Co-ordinator Angela Bustin says the benefit of pet therapy witnessed by staff and visitors reveals an overwhelmingly positive response from patients.

“The visits improve their social interaction and alertness, providing an opportunity for reminiscence and meeting the basic needs of love and belonging. The staff also get enjoyment from seeing the happy response of their patients and have commented on pet therapy being a huge success,” says Angela.

Volunteers play key role in prize winning service

Canterbury District Health Board won four award categories at the Institute of Public Administration New Zealand (IPANZ) awards held in Wellington end of July 2105, including the Victoria University of Wellington School of Government Award for Excellence in Public Sector Engagement.

CDHB’s 'Heading to hospital - Plan your trip!' campaign created to inform Cantabrians about the closure of onsite parking at Christchurch Hospital, and the establishment of a new Park and Ride scheme won the Award for Excellence in Public Sector Engagement.

The Award recognises the design and delivery of innovative public sector communications and engagement strategies that have significantly increased public awareness of a government objective. This may be a public information campaign, a public engagement strategy, or the communication of a specific initiative, change of policy, legislation or regulation, and may be in a variety of mediums.

'Heading to hospital - Plan your trip!' was an extensive staff and public communications campaign that heralded the closure of car-parking at Christchurch Hospital, due to construction works. Canterbury DHB found 200 substitute parking spaces, set up a new Park & Ride service and reorganised traffic flows at the hospital. The team ran a three-month campaign to reach a diverse audience including staff, patients and visitors of all ages. With clear, repetitive communications across multiple channels, the campaign created high awareness of the changes. Now 900 people a day use the shuttle buses from the Park & Rides with strong positive feedback.

Volunteers are a key part of the Park and Ride Scheme which began 28 October 2014.
Extra volunteers were recruited to help orderlies and security staff at the Drop Off Zone outside the main entrance to Christchurch Hospital.
Jan Danrell, Canterbury DHB Christchurch Hospital volunteer co-ordinator says her team of volunteers are doing a wonderful job with meeting, greeting and directing people.
“People are very grateful to see a friendly face when they walk in, and appreciate the assistance we can provide,” says Jan.

Volunteer with the musical touch 

A musical family helped set The Princess Margaret Hospital (TPMH) volunteer, Heather Ross, on a path that has provided entertainment for many people over the years.

Heather is a talented pianist and accompanies our TPMH singers in the Chapel each Thursday morning. She’s been volunteering at TPMH for more than 10 years. Music has always been a big part of her life.

Heather’s mother, Alice was also a pianist who played music to accompany silent movies. Her father was a violinist and the couple had eight children including Heather. Two of her sisters have wonderful singing voices. 

Tragically her father died when Heather was just eight years old. Despite having to raise a large family on her own, Alice made sure Heather received piano tuition and she has classical pianist training. When her music tutor went overseas the new tutor was much more relaxed in his approach and Heather learnt to play by ear.

“Having no exams was the best thing, it gave me room to learn to be a real musician,” says Heather.

She had stopped piano lessons after leaving school but got a job compiling music programmes for Radio 4YZ. She also joined an Operatic Society.

“I didn’t miss the lessons, my life was filled with music,” says Heather.

Twenty one years ago Heather moved to Christchurch from Invercargill and quickly got involved in the musical scene here. A chance visit to an antiques and collectible stall at the Christchurch Arts Centre led her to pianist Bob Salton. After noticing Heather scouring sheet music he asked if she was a musician. An affirmative reply led to Heather playing for various groups and ultimately as a volunteer for the TPMH singers when the current pianist hurt his shoulder.

Heather gets a real sense of enjoyment accompanying the TPMH singers. These days she often plays from memory and can accompany as many as eight different singers in a session.

“I love playing for patients and rest home residents. It gets them smiling with their heads up and toes tapping. The Alzheimer’s patients often remember all the words to the old songs and have a good old sing-a-long,” says Heather.

TPMH Volunteer Co-ordinator, Angela Bustin says Heather is deserving of recognition for her wonderful piano skills with which she performs with the entertainers each Thursday morning for TPMH patients that are well enough to attend.

“Heather is able to accompany the singers with music even without music sheets. Just listening to Heather playing the piano makes patients and staff feel relaxed. Her music brings back many memories for some patients. I admire Heather immensely for her musical skills,” says Angela.

Heather lives in Burwood and will join the Burwood Hospital volunteers’ team when Older Person’s Health and Rehabilitation moves to there from TPMH in 2016.​

Volunteers – people who care about people

Not one to sit back and let a lazy retirement take over her life, Faye Anderson joined the team of volunteers at Christchurch Hospital.

“After we sold our business, I really wanted to do something but hadn’t found my niche. Some people do arts and crafts, but I wanted to do something in the volunteer line.” Faye says she searched through the opportunities listed on the Volunteering Canterbury website and came across a call for volunteers at Christchurch Hospital.

“They were looking for people to help with wayfinding once the Park and Ride started,” she says. “I applied and was accepted. I didn’t really know much about the hospital, except that it always made me sad whenever I drove past as this is where my mother spent the last few weeks of her life.”

Now Faye says she realises that it’s a fabulous, community-focused environment, filled with people who care about people. 

“I’ve really enjoyed being part of it. The volunteers work closely with the orderlies and security and are there for each other. There is great communication between us all as we help patients and their families who are arriving at the Hospital.”

When a space opened up in the volunteers who staff the shop, Faye says she jumped at the chance to extend her volunteering hours at the Hospital. “Now I do four hours on a Monday wayfinding and four hours on a Thursday in the shop.”

“Volunteering definitely adds something to your life,” says Faye. “You have to keep the social side of your life going. It keeps you active, talking to people and in with the crowd. People are so appreciative of the help you give them. It’s a very rewarding experience.”​

Burwood Volunteer Jan Austin

Jan Austin was nominated for one of the recent Volunteering Canterbury Recognition Awards.  Her story recently appeared in a newspaper feature – here’s a summary.

Jan was on track to retire from paid work before the February 2011 earthquake. After the event she “went home to her family and never went back to work.”

Instead Jan sought out ways to help others.  A phone call to Christchurch Hospital led to a volunteers’ role at Burwood Hospital, where she looks after the Mobile Shop trolley. Jan’s been there for the past four years and says she gets immense pleasure from the work.

“I’m happy to fill in when needed. The volunteers have regular get-togethers, and it’s good to meet the others and get to know them, says Jan.

She also recognises the boost that volunteers can give to patients – having someone to talk to and take an interest in their day can really brighten them up. It also takes pressure off the nurses when volunteers are available for a chat with patients.

 Jan shares trolley duties with Ken Hird, a volunteer who was injured in the February earthquake and spent six months in the Burwood Spinal Unit. When repair work was being done at Burwood she spent six months volunteering in the Hospital café for one morning a week.

Rachael Walker, volunteer co-ordinator for the New Zealand Spinal Trust at Burwood says that volunteers like Jan bring relief to patients from the pressures of their stay in hospital.

“They make the patients feel welcome and bring a real sense of connection to the community,” says Rachael.

Volunteer awards abound – 1 July 2015

Congratulations to our volunteers who have received both regional and national recognition awards for the work they do.

Christchurch Hospital Volunteer representatives receiving ‘The Volunteering Canterbury Award’ in recognition of their outstanding contribution to the community. Right: Volunteers Pat Williams and Sarah Scadden receiving the award from Garry Moore. 

​The Christchurch Hospital Way Finding Team received the 2015 Minister of Health Volunteer Award for the category ‘Health Care Provider Service Volunteer Team’.

Pictured at Parliament after receiving the award: Dr Jonathan Coleman (Minister of Health), Anne-Marie Loughnan (volunteer), Jan Danrell (Christchurch Hospital Volunteer Co-ordinator) and Chris Irons (volunteer)


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Related Documents

​Would you like to volunteer? 
There are many ways you can make a difference through a role that matches your skills, interests and availability. 

Find​​ out more about how to volunteer​ to help patients, staff and hospital visitors.

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Page last reviewed: 02 November 2015