Close to 700 volunteers regularly offer their time in over 50 different programs throughout the Royal Victoria Hospital, the Montreal Neurological Hospital and the Montreal Chest Institute. Overall, the Montreal General Hospital Volunteer Service counts on approximately 800 volunteers who dedicate their time to 20 programs. At the Montreal Children’s Hospital, 250 volunteers help maintain the regular volunteer services to patients and families and at Lachine Hospital, 90 volunteers generously help in many ways.
KEEPING BUSY BY GIVING BACK
When he retired, George Midgley decided to start volunteering at The Montreal Children’s Hospital (MCH) two days a week. He helped Child Life Services bake cookies and play board games with the children and on several occasions he gave a slide presentation of his Safari trip to Africa for the kids and their families. Later, he moved on to do office work for Volunteer Services, tracking the number of hours worked by MCH volunteers. He even streamlined the compilation system and thus now works only once a week. Today, at age 83, he says, “I’ve never been one to sit on my buttocks (Mr. Midgley used a shorter word) and do nothing. You’ve got to keep busy,” he says. “I’ve led one good life, but I haven’t thrown in the towel yet,” he jokes, noting there are many projects on his bucket list. He adds that he volunteers because so much good was given to him by others that he now wants to give back.
A RAY OF SUNSHINE IS SOMETIMES JUST WHAT THE DOCTOR ORDERS!
In 2003, Ray Chiarella was treated for cancer at the Montreal General Hospital (MGH). It was then that he noticed the important work conducted by volunteers and it was then that he decided that he would like to give back for the excellent care he received as a patient. Five years later, Mr. Chiarella started as a volunteer with Cedars CanSupport in the Oncology Department and the Palliative Care Units at the MGH—today everyone knows who he is! He is often referred to as “boss” or their “Ray” of sunshine. Volunteering three days a week, Mr. Chiarella always tries to put a smile on patients’ faces. Accordingly, his motto is: “A smile’s always better than a needle!” Mr. Chiarella is always looking for ways to help patients and families whenever he can. Recently, he raised over $750 by selling second-hand books in the hospital with the help of Richard Daly, another volunteer. The money was used to buy articles for patients and families. What he really enjoys about volunteering is that he knows he can make a diff erence in the life of patients and their families. “Volunteering is about helping other people, but it also gives me a lot of satisfaction.” .
FROM MOTHER TO DAUGHTER, A GARDEN GROWS…
Myrtle Neel started volunteering at the Montreal Chest Institute (MCI) in 1989 when she began assisting her mother Mrs. Winisred Neel with the hospital garden, which her mother created and tended to every year. As Mrs. Neel aged, Myrtle got more involved to better help her mother maintain the garden. When Mrs. Neel passed away, Myrtle decided to carry on the tradition. Every year, in the beginning of May, Myrtle starts preparing and planting the garden. Trying to accommodate the residents of the hospital, she plants fl owers, vegetables and aromatic herbs so that everybody can enjoy the garden. Patients may even make requests, such as the most recent one for hot peppers. After the gardening season, Myrtle makes crafts and helps organize sales to gather funds for the long-term-care patients at the MCI. The money is then used to organize diff erent activities for the patients, such as outings or special breakfasts. “Most people don’t realize that outings can be pretty expensive: some patients need to have an inhalotherapist with them to monitor their respirator, for example,” says Myrtle. “It may be expensive, but when we see the smile on their faces and the sparkles in their eyes at the end of the day, we know it was worth every dollar.”
“EATON’S ON WHEELS” BRINGS SMILES TO PATIENTS AT THE NEURO
Micheline Tremblay has been a volunteer at the Montreal Neurological Hospital and Institute (MNH/I) for 21 years and is in charge of the “Eaton’s on wheels,” as the patients used to commonly call the cart. Volunteer students from McGill University take this cart from room to room to sell personal items and reading material to patients and families in the hospital. It all started in 1984, when Ms. Tremblay was hospitalized at the MNH/I. She liked the care she received so much she decided she would volunteer there one day. Five years later, she was ready and since she owned a boutique for 14 years, they put her in charge of the store. “Some patients come from far away and their family can’t visit them so they feel lonely, not to mention the anxiety they feel from their medical condition,” says Ms. Tremblay. “It feels very good to help these people by providing them with various items that may help with their stay. But the volunteers also provide the patients with someone to listen to them and to talk to.” As for the students, “they gain a lot of compassion and humanity that compliments their theoretical knowledge as most of them do want to pursue medicine,” says Ms. Tremblay. “I think the patients gain and they gain as I am sure this experience will make them better healthcare providers in the future.”
WE CALL THEM ANGELS...
Last year, 90 volunteers donated almost 23,000 hours of their time to various activities at the Lachine Campus 7 days a week, 18 hours per day. For example, the Auxiliary volunteers generously help in many ways, such as greeting patients in the Emergency Department and at the blood taking centre; running a small café called “La Cafetière” everyday of the week; and with pastoral services to bring an essential support to patients’ and family spiritual needs. Volunteers also give of their time in the Palliative Care Unit, where their presence is greatly appreciated. They even participate in over 15 weekly recreational activities, such as bingo, scrabble and the morning coffee club; and accompany patients on outings such as apple picking, walks in the park and shows at the Casino.
CARVING SOME SELF-ESTEEM THROUGH WOODWORKING
Volunteering has always been important for Robert Hartley, or “Bob,” as many people call him. Cubs and scouts master, involved with his parish, and actively supportive with several prostate cancer survivors with whom he organizes breakfasts and lunches, are just a few mentions of his time he gives happily. For the last seven years, Bob has also been volunteering at the Allan Memorial Institute (AMI), where he is responsible for the woodworking shop. Having always been a very active man, his involvement with the MUHC started when he was newly retired and responded to a newspaper ad saying the AMI was looking for volunteers. Today, he helps patients build various wood projects, from bird houses to chairs. As most of the patients suff er from severe depression, Bob helps them to literally build their self-esteem as they discover their talent for creation and reparation. “What I find the most satisfying is to watch individuals transition to confi dent people, who are ready to go back into the real world,” he says. “At the beginning, most of the patients don’t know anything about woodworking but after a couple of weeks they end up building pretty complex stuff . This puts a smile on my face and I think theirs too.”
My Tool Box chronic disease self-management program volunteers
The success of the My Tool Box chronic disease self-management program would not be possible without the sustained effort, dedication, time, and support that our team of trained volunteers provides. THANK YOU to all our volunteers for this incalculable contribution to the health and well-being of our patients and families!
“I am only one, but I am one. I cannot do everything, but I can do something. And I will not let what I cannot do interfere with what I can do”. ~Edward Everett Hale