Volunteers Recognised at Appreciation Function
Eighty-six year old Jean Harker has dedicated more than 30 years of her time and energy to the children at Red Cross War Memorial Children’s Hospital through volunteer work.
Volunteers are an essential resource for Red Cross War Memorial Children’s Hospital; they render a service in the hospital that the man on the street is mostly unaware of. Their activities are completely patient-driven and make the children’s stay in hospital a bit more bearable.
Jean and other volunteers were thanked for their support during the Volunteer Appreciation Awards held on 24 June 2014 at Red Cross War Memorial Children’s Hospital. Their support is vital in helping Red Cross War Memorial Children’s Hospital progress their services and their patients benefit greatly from their dedication.
Jean, more fondly known as ‘The Red Cross Lady’, started her journey as a volunteer in the early 1980’s. Her voluntary work was briefly halted by unforeseen circumstances, but Jean quickly resumed her voluntary work in 1984, after the passing of her husband, when she registered as a volunteer with the Friends of the Children’s Hospital Association (FOCHA).
The Friends of the Children’s Hospital Association is a voluntary support organisation to the Red Cross War Memorial Children’s Hospital that depends solely on the support of the community and believes that physical and emotional healing work simultaneously.
She still fondly remembers the love and passion she instantly felt for the children when she first arrived. “The first smile made it all worthwhile and that’s what kept me coming back.”
Apart from the voluntary work that Jean does at the Hospital, she also uses her skills to knit things that she donates to the hospital through FOCHA, regularly collects things from friends and others for donation and is involved with training new volunteers at the hospital.
‘The Red Cross Lady’ has crept deep into the hearts of patients, colleagues, staff members at Red Cross War Memorial Children’s Hospital and parents who need comfort, because she always makes time to listen to them.
It is very apparent that, in her 30 years of voluntary service, Jean has perfected the manner in which to communicate with the children. She stresses the importance of treating each child as an individual: “We don’t necessarily always know what illness the patient has. Our work is not to help them that way. We’re here to help to fill their time. It’s absurd to go with a preconception of their limitations because they have this or that illness. Each child is different and we adapt to their needs – the only limitations are the ones they give themselves.”
David Stephens, Executive Director of FOCHA, says: “Volunteers are special people who unselfishly offer their time, resources and skills to serve vulnerable children at the Red Cross War Memorial Children’s Hospital. They embody the spirit of Ubuntu and nation building and we are blessed to have them serve the children. For more than 36 years, volunteers have been part of the continuum of care that has ensured that thousands of children get the best care possible at the hospital.”
Jean adds that there is nothing that fulfills her life like volunteering at the hospital. “People need to understand that the value of volunteering – besides the fact that you bring something to the community – is that you are the first person to benefit out of it.”
- Sixty-two volunteers received Certificates of Appreciation during the Volunteer Appreciation Awards.
- The Friends of the Children’s Hospital Association currently have 474 volunteers, most of which are from abroad.
- Volunteers have to be 16 years of age or older.
- The volunteers follow quite a rigorous registration process which includes an application form, accompanied by a motivational letter stating the reason for the person’s interest in becoming a volunteer at the organisation, two valid and recent references and police clearance. The police clearance, received from the South African Police Services, validates that the candidate has no criminal record and is able to work in an environment with children.
- All volunteers are orientated and placed with experienced volunteers that show them the ropes before they start their voluntary work.