Student Volunteers

International and Summer Student Volunteers
An Experience That Opened Our Eyes

Over the last number of years, the Volunteer Office has taken a small number of international students during the summer months as part of the Volunteer Student Programme.

International students come from various colleges in North America for a period of 8 – 10 weeks as part of their internships or academic exchange programme. Linking with organisations such as EUSA and CAPA, students are vetted, sent all the necessary volunteer documentation and have a phone interview with one of the Volunteer Coordinators before they begin. Every student placement and reason for coming here is unique – particularly as they are so far from home – and we are delighted to welcome them into the programme each year. They learn about all aspects of volunteering, Irish culture and for them the unique experience of an overseas placement.

All students during the summer months receive the same mandatory and on-site training as every volunteer in OLH&CS. The summer and international students bring huge personalities, great enthusiasm and experience into the summer programme and are a valuable asset to our team.

All enquiries should be made through the Volunteer Office.

Volunteers pictured during their summer placements are Tia Goodwin (Dublin), Mackenzie Klaver (Kansas) and Mallorie Gagnon (New York)

An Experience That Opened Our Eyes

I first started coming to volunteer at Our Lady’s Hospice & Care Services in January 2015. I was participating in the Gaisce (Presidents Award) as part of transition year and I needed to do community work somewhere. My friend suggested that I should come to the hospice as she had been doing volunteering there since September the previous year. On my first day at the hospice I had no idea what to expect and was quite daunted at the prospect. Having Hannah come in with me really helped. When I came into the Volunteer Office, I was greeted by a lady called Niamh who was one of the volunteer coordinators. Niamh went over some of the rules and training and told me what I would be doing there. Seeing Niamh’s friendly face made me less nervous as I began to realise that the hospice was not a scary place, but a place filled with friendly staff and a welcoming atmosphere.

Once a week from then on, Hannah and I came down to the hospice for an hour to help with feeding at tea time. The more I went, the more comfortable I became with the work we did. Over time I got to know lots of the people’s name who stayed and worked there. Sometimes when I would be assisting a patient with their tea, they started to shout at me but I understood that it’s not their fault and they mightn’t realise what they are doing. I’ve learnt that you need to have thick skin! After I finished transition year, I kept volunteering at the hospice during the summer. I didn’t want to just have to stop going anymore so I continued on.

The hospice has opened my eyes to many things that I never even thought about before. It has taught me to have more respect and tolerance for our older generation. Every time I come home from the hospice I feel fulfilled and like I’ve spent my day doing something worthwhile and I haven’t sat around on my phone all day. There is never a dull moment being a volunteer at Our Lady’s Hospice whether I am helping with baking, skittles, assisting with feeding or sitting down in the restaurant enjoying a cup of free coffee – another perk of being a volunteer!

I am so glad I got to become a volunteer at the hospice and I would definitely recommend it to anyone else.

Eva Kirwan, age 16

The day finally came; the first day of my work experience in Our Lady’s Hospice & Care Services. For months people had told me that choosing this would be an experience and it would be an eye opener. I thought that it was a great chance to give back to the community and something that is out of my comfort zone.

As soon as we pulled up outside the beautifully built building, a wave of nervousness came over me. It was subtle but they say nerves are not such a bad thing. I made my way straight for the Volunteer Office and the minute I walked in the room, I was immediately greeted by the volunteer coordinator Niamh. Her warm welcome and calm vibe soon washed my nerves away. We started into an introduction on how to correctly wash your hands, manoeuvre a wheelchair safety and help feed a patient with ease. I was most sceptical about the wheelchair pushing as I am quite clumsy. As soon as the introduction lesson was over we headed over to the wards.

We soon discovered that there are four wards in the Extended Care Unit. From the very first day I was on St. Michael’s Ward which I couldn’t enjoy more. The day would start off by collecting patients and wheeling them to Mass at 10am. I enjoyed this part as you would get an opportunity to chat to the patients. After this we would go to have a quick coffee break and then collect the residents/patients from mass. When all the patients were back safety in their rooms, we would then get the tea, soup and biscuit trolley and go around each of the rooms giving out refreshments. This is a lovely activity as you get to chat with the residents and learn their personalities. After this task was completed we would collect the patients for baking. I absolutely loved this activity because as well as being fun, it helped the patients with their hand coordination and was something different for them to do. Each week it seemed like they were really enjoying it.

Soon after this activity it was time for lunches and we would go to our allocated ward. Feeding was always an aspect of this work experience that people don’t enjoy but I really didn’t mind it as I knew it was an important element. It was a relaxing time of the day and helped you to get to know the residents better. When finished, we would go for lunch and then set up the afternoon activity which was skittles, bingo or crossword. This was the most enjoyable part of the day as a good few patients would get together to play these games. I have so many fond memories of these afternoons like on our last day it was a big Christmas party and they had a singer in which all the residents loved.

I learnt so much in my 13 weeks in Our Lady’s Hospice that I will carry with me my whole life. When people said that it would be an eye opener, they couldn’t have been more correct. It opened my eyes in so many ways. It makes you see life differently and makes you want to live it to its fullest because life is short and everything goes by so quickly. During my time there I build up many bonds with the patients and will never forget them as they are what made it special for me. Just knowing I made at least one person smile during their last few days or even hours was the most rewarding thing of all.

Hannah Thomson, age 16

Eva and Hannah