For this year’s National Volunteer Week we spoke with Trudi, who has been volunteering with our Family Connect since June 2018.
Volunteering is a wonderful way to give back to the community and make new connections. We’re celebrating Volunteer Week which runs from May 18 – 24 this year, recognising the invaluable asset that volunteers are to non-profit organisations like ours.
We have a fantastic group of volunteers in our Family Connect program, who donate two hours of their week to spend it with children and families at the Royal Children’s Hospital Cancer Centre (RCH).
We caught up with Trudi, who has been volunteering for the Foundation since June 2018, to share her Family Connect Volunteer experience and a bit about herself.
Trudi was a teacher and Principal of a primary school before retiring, which has provided her with excellent skills and experience for the Family Connect environment.
Trudi also knows what it feels like to hear the news, that your child has cancer.
“I retired after many years and was getting used to life without work and having a focus. At first, I enjoyed the relaxation but gradually began to feel the need to be useful and to contribute in some way to society. I investigated various volunteer roles and came across the opportunity with the Foundation via Seek. I felt I had the necessary skills and could be of some value in the role”, Trudi told us.
“Our daughter is also a cancer survivor and had been a patient at the Royal Children’s some thirty years earlier”.
We welcome people with all kinds of employment experience and backgrounds to be a Family Connect Volunteer. While not essential, Trudi’s experience of childhood cancer through her daughter helps her relate to parents whose children are on treatment.
“I have real empathy for them and feel at ease discussing complex issues if they wish to. I also enjoy working with children, and after thirty plus years of teaching, can connect with them easily”.
A typical Family Connect morning tea involves volunteers offering snacks, coffee and tea and speaking to patients, parents and families on the Day Oncology, or Kookaburra, Ward.
“After a while, you get to know the regulars and catch up with them. If I’m lucky, I have Hilary (another Family Connect Volunteer) along with me, playing her ukulele. The kids especially love that. It adds a fun vibe to the ward”.
Volunteers of the Foundation can also help parents and families better understand the relevant services the Foundation can offer to them, such as family counselling support and gym access at the RCH.
“We are always friendly, positive and kind. We are hopefully brightening everyone’s day just a little”.
The role of a volunteer can have challenges, as Trudi explains, “Occasionally someone doesn’t want to engage because they are staying private or having a particularly sad day. While it can be difficult to let that be, we respect their wishes. It’s also challenging wondering what’s happened to a child that you haven’t seen for some time. You can’t help but wonder about their outcome. That can be a bit unsettling”.
Trudi said she finds herself continually amazed at how childhood cancer treatment and medicine has progressed since her daughter was in the Royal Children’s Hospital.
“The ability to provide kinder, more personalised treatments is incredible. There are also many more charity organisations operating throughout the hospital and the number of support services they offer to families is wonderful”.
Trudi said she still finds herself in awe of children’s resilience and ability to have fun during such a challenging time.
“The team I work with are easy to get along with, and I have made some younger new friends!”
Trudi shared that volunteering with the Foundation has validated her beliefs after her own experience with childhood cancer. “It’s confirmation of everything I discovered during my daughter’s illness. We learnt a lifelong lesson. Money and material possessions were not important. Family and friends play such an immense role in our lives and should be valued and sustained’’.
When Trudi isn’t volunteering, she enjoys Zumba and weights classes, watercolour painting, creating online photo books and looking after her grandchildren. “Retirement is a little leisurely and self-indulgent, so I’ve tried to keep busy. I’ve had to rediscover myself, and volunteering has been a big part of that”.
“The best part is the feeling of personal satisfaction and the sense I am making a difference to the future of childhood cancer, no matter how small it may be”.
Find out more about about Trudi through her recent Q&A with us.