KAWARTHA LAKES: For a number of years, the Ross Memorial Hospital Auxiliary has been running a volunteer program for teens.
The VolunTeen program runs 52 weeks per year and allows teens, between the ages of 14 and 19, to get their community service hours volunteering in a hospital environment, while also learning how the hospital operates.
The teens volunteer in the OBS maternity ward, continuing care, the surgical unit, the emergency department, and at the information desk. In the past, the teens have also helped out in café and in the gift shop.
Some of their possible duties include; making sure patients have ice water in their rooms; helping in continuing care, to bring patients to the activity room for dinner; helping them butter and cut their bread; helping with the cleanup after dinner, as well as, helping patients put on their shirt savers; and helping at the information desk.
However, VolunTeen program coordinator, Patricia Zahorec explained there is one role she finds to be the most important.
“The most important thing is friendly visiting. Patients that are in the hospital for a given length of time, their [families are] usually pretty diligent about coming to see them. But the longer you are in the hospital, people have lives outside the hospital and they might not get in as often as the patient would like,” she said. “So here you have this teen coming in after school and is able to spend three hours with the patients, talking with them. Everybody likes to talk about themselves, so you can sit and talk with someone, find out what their interests are.”
Ms. Zahorec added, there are numerous benefits or rewards for the students that take part in this program.
"Number one, they're helping their community. They're getting the hospital experience, they're learning a little bit about how a hospital runs. It's also good for them in learning to communicate,” she said.
As well, for students who are interested in enrolling in a post-secondary health sciences program, the VolunTeen program offers the opportunity to apply for a bursary. The Anne Harrison bursary goes out, annually, to up to four teens in their last year of high school, who have volunteered at least 100 hours at the hospital, and are enrolled in a post-secondary health sciences program.
Ms. Zahorec said she keeps records about the students on file, and commonly writes reference letters for them. She added she commonly sees between 40 and 50 teens in a month.
"I haven't gotten to the point yet where I have had to turn anybody away, so that's good. We usually have some openings,” she said.
Volunteer Connor Chase shared about the role he enjoys most, being able to visit with the patients.
"I just love to hear stories, that is my favourite part,” he said.
Volunteer Sara McKenzie said this program helps people learn how to handle many different situations.
"You get to deal with a lot of situations that you wouldn't normally deal with on a day to day basis, and it is good to be in this environment to do so,” she commented.
Ms. Zahorec has been coordinating the program for over seven years. She said she finds a lot of reward in the enjoyment the volunteers get out of the program.
For more information on the program and how to apply, visit