Welcome support for families in hospital

Celebrating her youngest son's first birthday in the Royal Children's Hospital during a brief but 'fairly traumatic' five day stay, Judy Browning thought that if she ever got time, she'd like to give back and get involved with the hospital.

So when the last of her five sons turned 12 and the volunteering duties at their kindergarten and primary schools began to wind down, Judy picked up the phone to the Royal Children's Hospital and asked just how she could help.

'Being a full-time mum I was fortunate to be very involved at school and kinder, but there came a time when I needed to spread my wings and do something a little different,' says Judy.

Since that time more than eight years ago, Judy has spent every Thursday as a volunteer at the hospital's Children's Cancer Centre and neuroscience ward.

'While being a volunteer in these areas can be fairly confronting and it isn't easy at times, hats off to the staff who keep the atmosphere and the vibe energetic and do a wonderful job to make it a very upbeat place,' she says.

'It's incredibly rewarding to be a part of that and to be able to play a small part in helping these families.'

Every volunteer at the Royal Children's is allocated a specific position and Judy's role as Family Support Volunteer means she is there to do 'whatever families want and need.'

From sitting with a sick child while their parents take a break to be with each other or their other children, to taking siblings to the playground, Judy's role can be very broad and vary from week to week.

'For parents, just having someone there other than the medical staff to watch their child sleep or to put their dummy back when it's fallen out is so important. It means they can feel comfortable and go about doing the things they need to do like spending time with their other children or some shopping knowing someone is always close by,' Judy says.

Judy is always happy to be flexible and on hand to assist with other duties when needed, offering administrative support for various fundraising initiatives at the centre.

'It's incredibly rewarding to be able to make a little bit of a difference in someone's journey or struggle.'

'It's great to be involved and I would encourage others to do it but volunteering is definitely a commitment and not something you take lightly.'

To find out about the many ways you can support the Royal Children's Hospital visit www.rch.org.au