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Each volunteering shift is an achievement and memorable

Barbara du Plessis

Imagine the stress of arriving at Starship from out of Auckland, with your critically sick or injured child. It’s a situation that parents from around New Zealand find themselves in, often unexpectedly, and it’s when Starship’s Family Support volunteers can help.

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Barbara du Plessis, who is one of six Family Support volunteers, first became involved with volunteering at Starship in 2012. Her motivation was the incredible support given to her by Auckland Hospital while she was supporting and visiting her own Mum and Dad as in-patients.

The Family Support volunteer job is to ease the stress of the parents and caregivers and to help where they can with their immediate practical needs. Barbara comes to Starship every Thursday spending up to three hours visiting ‘out of Auckland’ families who were admitted to Starship Hospital during the last 24 hours from all parts of New Zealand. 

“My focus is to support the parents or primary caregiver. Often they have no support system or contacts in Auckland, and they might have arrived at Starship with just the clothes they’re wearing,” explains Barbara.

She assists with things like hospital orientation, explaining what is available through Starship support services, transport and parking options, the location of family rooms, accommodation, where to get food and meals, and more.

“It depends on the specific needs of the individual family,” explains Barbara. “Hearing of the burdens of Starship families in their time of immediate need can be difficult at times, but I do have support from the Starship staff that I know I can count on. This gives me the confidence to contribute back to the Starship families.”

For Barbara each volunteering shift is an achievement and memorable.

Lindy Lely, volunteer coordinator for Auckland DHB (and pictured above with Barbara), says, “When I started coordinating the Starship volunteers in 2014, the then five Family Support volunteers couldn’t be more different from one another. Each day has a different volunteer with a slightly different touch, but they are all there to help make sure that families can settle in well.”

Lindy believes that many families who arrive at Starship from within the Auckland DHB would also benefit from having a visit from a Family Support volunteer, and it is her hope that the service be extended in the near future.

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