To keep the spirits flowing here during National Volunteers Week, we spoke with Miriam Houweling (second from the right in the photo above), one of our volunteers in theatre, working with kids going into surgery and their families to provide comfort and support on all ends.
Since her retirement from nursing, she has been working with the hospital and the foundation for over 10 years. She wanted to keep her skills alive and use them to help others.
“I’ve been nursing my whole life and then retired, so I felt I needed to put something back in the community.”
As a theatre volunteer, a regular day for Miriam is never the same but generally entails guiding families of sick children through the process of surgery, answering their questions and providing distraction and relief for them when they need it.
“I’m [working with] the children in theatre so what I’m doing is I’ll guide the parents and the children until the children are asleep and in theatre… because it is an upsetting thing to see your child go to sleep and [I} give a bit of comfort. I really enjoy it, while we’re waiting for the kids for their turn [in surgery] … I play with the kids and do some little crafty things, or we play with Lego or other little toys.”
With seven grandchildren and three great-grandchildren, Miriam says she looks forward to her Tuesdays volunteering at the Hospital. She doesn’t have a lot of free time as she also cares for her husband who is ill. But she makes sure she has some time to enjoy her own hobbies and look after their pup.
“There’s not much free time, I’m a carer for my husband who has a chronic illness… but in my free time, I like sewing and walking the dog.”
Her family and her volunteer work are what keeps her motivated, however, and despite her busy schedule, she finds it important to her own well-being to be able to give back to the community and is thankful for the opportunity to be able to work with the Ipswich Hospital Foundation.
“Doing nice things for other people, makes me feel good… When I’m not looking after my husband I do have a bit of free time and that’s why I like volunteering. It also gives you a connection with the outside world… to be honest to volunteer is a little bit of a sanity break because being a carer for someone is a fulltime job. I’m always looking forward to Tuesdays; my day at the hospital, it depends on how many children are there – I can volunteer anywhere between 2 and 8 hours a day.”
“The best part is just to be part of a team and being able to make life easier for families and children and their parents I really like that and being part of a team with the nurses and the doctors and everyone around.”
We’re blessed at the foundation to have people like Miriam with such generous hearts giving up their time to help others, and their communities in times they need it most. When asked if she would recommend volunteering to others it was a resounding yes!
“Absolutely because it gives an extra dimension on your life. It gives you a good feeling. You need to put something back in the community.”