Thursday, 28 May 2009


I have belatedly realised that my training as a teacher of children with special needs leaves me well qualified to work with children who have a limited life expectancy. As a result, I have recently started as a volunteer in a Children's Hospice. I shall do 'befriender' training later this year after which I shall be working with individual children. Until then, I shall be helping in a variety of ways within the hospice. In this way, I shall be able to learn how things operate and get to know the staff. Today I first worked with a small group of teenage children doing some art and craft activity and then after lunch, I spent some time in the Admin office.

The hospice has 10 bedrooms. It mainly takes in children on a respite basis. Children will attend for a few hours or a few days. Families may also wish their child to end their final days there, in a place they know well and are happy in and this is welcomed.

When a child dies there, an event which occurs every two weeks or so, the other children in the hospice know nothing of it. Life goes on as normal and parties or routine activities take place as usual. Ribbons and rainbows are put up in the entrance foyer to alert staff and volunteers to the fact that one of the 'special' bedrooms, which are kept well chilled, is occupied.

The children coming to stay find 'their' room pretty much as they left it. This is because their own special toys and pictures are kept in a box with their name on it and put into the room in readiness for their arrival. They don't know that perhaps fifty other children have used the room since they were last there.

I am mainly doing this because I will thoroughly enjoy it but also because I am well aware that many people can't face the prospect of doing this work but I can. Many of the other hospice volunteers are unable and unwilling to work directly with the children and this is perfectly normal and understood. Because of this, they may work in the kitchen, in the office or in the garden. They may also work far removed from the hospice itself in one of their many charity shops. These are very necessary, for the government only funds about 8 or 9 per cent of the costs involved. The rest is made up from sales and donations. Obviously then, volunteers are vital to the work of the hospice.

If you have any time to spare, perhaps you could consider helping out in whichever way appeals to you at your local facility. You will receive no salary but I assure you that you will feel completely rewarded.


  1. What a wonderful volunteer opportunity - it not only helps you but gives those amazingly brave children love and support. I think you must be a very strong man with a huge loving heart to take this on and I thank you for your compassionate care of these children. I could never do this no matter how much I care about children - I'm one of those "weepy women" who would have to do the admin work! I'm looking for volunteer opportunities myself and am seriously looking toward several of our elderly facilities for my service and at our church food pantry. Hugs!

  2. It is a goal of mine to volunteer at Hospice. I don't believe we have one dedicated to children though. Hospice was there for my family when we needed them and I really want to show my gratitude. I become paralyzed by my emotions every time I attempt to go. I'll do it but I have to find the strength. I guess the hurt is still too close to the surface.