The volunteer program is an initiative spearheaded by Hamad General Hospital, in collaboration with the Office of Corporate Child Health Planning. The main aim of the program is to develop pediatric volunteers who will contribute to improving the quality of life for children who are inpatients at Hamad General Hospital, through integration and play.

We caught up with Ms. Eugene Roberts, one of the first volunteers to come on board, and asked her a few questions about her involvement with the program.      

How long have you been involved with the volunteer program to date?

Exactly a year, as I undertook my initial training in June 2013.  I started volunteering on Pediatric Ward 2N in September 2013, after my summer break in the UK.

What made you want to get involved with the program?

Prior to coming to live in Qatar, I spent three years in Riga, Latvia. For two of those years I was a weekly visitor to an orphanage for youngsters with special needs. I mostly spent time playing and reading to a boy, called Max, who had suffered brain damage as a result of a car accident in which both his parents had been killed. Although Max could not speak and could only understand Russian and Latvian and I speak English, we became good friends and I thoroughly enjoyed the time I spent at the orphanage.

When I arrived in Doha I was hoping to find a similar opportunity and luckily this presented itself through my membership of the Tuesday Ladies Group (TLG).  We were told about a new volunteering scheme at Hamad General Hospital and I was simply delighted to be able to undertake the training program offered by Hamad in conjunction with SickKids International. One big difference between my volunteering at Hamad and at the Riga orphanage was that here I was given excellent initial training. There has been the opportunity to gain support and guidance, as needed, throughout by the nursing team at HGH. You are not on your own, as I had been previously when volunteering.

Is there something the program has ‘given back’ to you?

Yes, a tremendous amount. Where to start...I feel that I ‘make a small difference’ every single time I visit the youngsters on the Dialysis and Pediatric wards. The children are charming, enthusiastic and you witness a change from them being bored, to actively participating in a range of activities. If there are tears when you join the bedside, you aim always to leave a smile when you leave.

I like the interaction, not only with the young patients but also their parents/carers and siblings who are most often at the bedside too.
I enjoy communicating with Qataris and other nationalities, other than the usual expat community with whom I naturally spend a lot of time. It is not always easy to meet Qatari nationals and, in the setting of a hospital ward, you have a common bond – trying to make the best of a bad situation by helping sick children.

I also enjoy being part of a professional ‘team’ again, since prior to becoming an expat due to my husband’s work overseas, I had worked full time and miss this aspect of my life. The staff and parents at Hamad are very appreciative and I feel valued.

Because I enjoy my volunteering so much I have become something of an ‘evangelist’, encouraging other expat women to get involved at HGH. Many of us have a lot of time on our hands and want to use some of this time in a very real and beneficial way for others in our community. Many of us live very privileged lives here in Doha and it is very satisfying to contribute positively in this small way.

What activities have you been involved with since joining the program?

I volunteer with my buddy, Carol Sault for two hours each week, on a Thursday morning at HGH. We always try to split our time between the general Pediatric Ward and the pediatric dialysis patients, since these children spend a lot of time in hospital each week and get very bored.

Through volunteering at HGH I was made aware of the need for hand-knitted ‘Happy Teddies’, to be given to children in the Emergency Department and on the ward. These are used by the medical team to show youngsters what types of treatment, such as injections, blood pressure etc., may be done to them in hospital. They are also used as comforters and are taken home by the patient when they leave hospital. Since I enjoy knitting, I got involved with the creation of a TLG charity knitting group, making Happy Teddies for HGH. This group meets fortnightly and we have made around 300 Happy Teddies so far. Many members of TLG are involved in knitting, finishing and embroidering faces on the teddies and we enjoy meeting for a chat over coffee, whilst clicking away with our needles.
Is there any activity in particular that you would like to undertake as part of the volunteer program in the future?

I would very much like to help, in any way, with the training of new volunteers. I think it might be helpful for those of us with hands-on experience volunteering with the children to talk to new recruits. We could, perhaps, reassure them that language is not a barrier to interaction with these families and give them a few ideas on how to take your travelling toy kit away from the bedside without prompting a tantrum.

What would you say to someone who may be thinking about becoming a volunteer?

If you enjoy spending time in the company of children and want to feel that you have made a positive difference to someone’s day – then the chance to volunteer at HGH can make a significant impact on the way you feel about living in Qatar. In many ways the time I spend at HGH represents some of the happiest and most ‘real’ hours of the week. 

Marriott Marquis Art Work – 2N1
A team from the Marriott Marquis Hotel partnered with HMC’s Hospitality Department to decorate the walls of the 2N1 Pediatric Inpatient Unit. This initiative assisted in creating a child friendly environment in the unit. Hamad General Hospital supported this Corporate Social Responsibility program and seized the opportunity for the benefit of pediatric patients and staff.

With the support of Ms. Judith Nelmes (DON) and Sister Ma Lou Ezpeleta, the event was a great success. The staff as well as some parents of the patients in this unit volunteered to be a part of this fun filled program.

Sister Ma Lou said, “The artwork produced by the volunteers within the Pediatric Inpatient Unit has made a huge impression on the patients and families that come through 2N1. Having a more child friendly environment makes the children feel much more at ease when in the clinical environment. We are delighted with what the volunteers produced, and are very grateful for all their hard work”.