Twelve palliative care volunteers from Port Kembla Hospital were among those recognised at the Illawarra Volunteer of the Year Awards ceremony in Wollongong on Wednesday.
Awarded ‘Volunteer Team of the Year,” the community members have helped palliative care staff for many years, greatly contributing to the lives of others.
For Wollongong resident Helen Smith, life as a palliative care volunteer is extremely rewarding.
“[Palliative care] can be a really sad place but we meet some wonderful people during really stressful times, and it is so rewarding to be able to assist in any way we can,’’ she said.
“Sometimes just a hand on their shoulder, a cuddle or a cup of tea can make the world of difference.”
Ms Smith encouraged people to give volunteering a go.
“Call up the people you are interested in working for,” she said.
“It can take a little bit of time and a training period, but don’t be afraid.”
The creation of a kitchen that acts as the “heart of the hospital” is among the reasons why the palliative care volunteers were given the award.
At the Port Kembla Hospital the volunteers funded, developed and maintain a communal kitchen – a place where, like in the home, acts as a “place for kind words or to share experiences’’.
In addition to this, a number of volunteers bake on a daily basis to fill the ward with the smell of home cooking and provide patients with the option to enjoy a drink from the “jolly trolley”.
A spokesperson for the palliative care volunteers said it enhances patients’ lives.
“By offering patients a tipple and chips before dinner, volunteers share a joke and enhance the daily life of palliating patients,” she said.
Within the Illawarra, a number of residents were recognised for their contributions including Colin McIntyre who was awarded Senior Volunteer of the Year.
Sharon Fulcher received the overall 2016 Illawarra Volunteer of the Year Award for her work with the National Parks and Wildlife Service.
For more information on the awards, please visit volunteering.com.au/volunteer-awards/.