Helping hands

On Friday afternoons, Alyssa Youssef and Ioanna Gogonis head to The Northern Hospital in Epping to join a team of volunteers coordinated by Henni Wade. 

Henni has been able to recruit volunteers from a very diverse range of people from all ages, from the 85-year-old who leads the knitters club making beautiful comfort teddies, right down to the youngsters from William Ruthven Secondary College.

That diversity is an asset as the Northern Hospital caters to a wide range of people from various backgrounds.

As volunteers, the WRSC students turn their hand to most things. They have sold raffle tickets and through that, supported both the hospital’s purchase of equipment and research programs.

They have chatted to waiting patients as they refresh the magazine tables in the clinics and calmed them as they wait for procedures.

They have helped out in the vaccination clinic which can become incredibly crowded as members of the community come in for their winter flu shots. The students have made the work of the medical staff much easier by handing out the paperwork and keeping the queue orderly.

They have also been invaluable in the children’s ward, reading books and playing games, or caring for them as exhausted and stressed parents are given a breather to go and grab a coffee. 

What a surprise it was to meet the girls’ adult volunteer supervisor and find it was one of my first students from Preston Girls’ High School! Filomena Perdito is now a semi-retired primary teacher who spends her leisure hours working at both the Northern Hospital and the Royal Children’s Hospital in Parkville. 

Today, after the WRSC students change onto their volunteers uniforms, they follow Filomena into the paediatric ward. Hands are disinfected and the panel outside each room has to be read as special precautions are listed for each patient. The room they are about to enter requires face masks, gowns and surgical gloves.

It takes a bit of grit to do this volunteer work but the WRSC students are undaunted, and they love it despite neither student wishing to pursue medical careers. Alyssa has her heart set on joining the police force and Ioanna would like to become a youth safety worker. In both those fields, the compassion they have shown at the Northern hospital will set them in good stead.

Report: Lillian Leptos