Every year at SEEK we are provided with a volunteer day where we can leave the office and choose to volunteer with an organisation of our choice. Last year, my team chose to volunteer as a group at the Royal Children's Hospital in the cancer ward. The RCH had asked that we make Christmas cards with the kids, and generally just keep them company, whether waiting between doctor’s appointments or hanging out in their room.
Leading up to our day at RCH, many of us in the team were feeling quite nervous about how we would react when seeing children who are so sick - would we know what to say to them and their parents, would our emotions get the better of us? I managed these nerves by investing my energy in baking the night before as we'd been asked to provide morning tea - 3 batches of chocolate chip cookies later and I was feeling more confident.
We arrived at RCH and were greeted enthusiastically by the staff - it was encouraging to know that they were welcoming of our presence and the potential brightness we would offer. Our first task was to offer morning tea to the children and their families who were waiting to see doctors - it seems nothing breaks the ice better than chocolate or sugar! It was then time to start making Christmas cards - we had come armed with pipe cleaners, textas, beads and feathers - all things shiny and fun that can get even those big kids amongst us excited! Some of us settled into the waiting room, while others made visits to the wards.
It was amazing that our initial nerves were straight away settled by the sick kids themselves - by sitting and chatting with them, choosing texta colours and helping them glue buttons it became clear that despite the scarves on their heads and drips in their arms, they had an abundance of openness, positivity and delight. Having the opportunity to experience this was nothing short of phenomenal. I started to understand that the natural naivety of children is a blessing in these situations. It was more often when speaking to parents, siblings and family friends, that the pain and struggle showed, too mature not to understand the impacts and possibilities which cancer brings with it.
To say that the day did not take its toll emotionally would not be honest. However, knowing that were able to put smiles on faces, that otherwise may not have appeared that day, is one of the most fulfilling accomplishments I can put my name to. Thank you to the staff, parents & children at the RCH for welcoming us, and allowing us to experience the joy that kids bring under all circumstances.