The service delivered by volunteers who devote their time to improving the lives of others, often goes unacknowledged. This is why the Friends of the Children’s Hospital Association (FOCHA) held a special awards ceremony on Thursday September 21.
The ceremony was a chance to say thank you to those volunteers who have touched the lives of so many children and families at the hospital.
Some of the volunteers at the ceremony have been with the hospital for more than 31 years and they spoke about the joy and heartache they had experienced from the many young patients they had become attached to over the years.
Nasheega Jacobs started volunteering when her grandson had an operation at the hospital.
She decided she wanted to give back because of the goodwill the hospital had shown her and she devoted her free time to caring for others at the hospital.
“Today my grandson is 18 years old. When I came here, they put me in a ward where children were suffering a lot. I thought why put me on a ward with such suffering, but God had a will. They became my kids.
“I’m an ouma with eight grandchildren, and these children also became my kids.
“The rule is that we don’t ask questions about the condition of kids, but we’re just there to sit and give tender love and care.
“One day you play with them and the next day the bed is empty…”
Another volunteer, Serina Windvogel, who has been with the hospital for eight years, said that sometimes they could not do anything for the children other than hold their hands, or rub their backs.
“On March 6 something tragic happened in our family and it was my job to be next to my child and hold her hand and make her smile. You give of yourself but it also changes you as a person.
“One mom inspired me. They said there is no more hope for her child, but she didn’t accept that report. A community member said she would keep on praying for her child and things turned around. The day her child left here we were so happy,” said Ms Windvogel.
FOCHA gets about 700 volunteers a year. Many stay on.
Speaker Dean Carelse encouraged volunteers to also make time for themselves. “Years ago I was a volunteer. Sometimes you get tired of doing good. It’s not always easy to get up in the morning and put on a smile or serve someone else when you’re not feeling so good. The way to deal with compassion fatigue is to love yourself.
“It’s important that you make time to love yourself. When you pour a glass of water for a baby, make sure you pour one for yourself. Compliment and affirm yourself before anyone at the hospital says well done. By loving yourself you find motivation to keep on going and doing good.”