Getting to know three of Westmead Hospital’s long-standing volunteers

Westmead Hospital has a volunteer workforce of 80 people who provide more than 20 services to the wards and departments. Some services include assisting visitors in the Intensive Care Unit, basic administration duties, Justice of the Peace services and fundraising.

This National Volunteer Week, three of these volunteers share why they love to volunteer at Westmead and why you should consider it too.

Ben Westerbrink is a guide who assists visitors and out-patients get to their destination in the hospital. He started in 2015 and volunteers two days per week.
For 81-year-old Ben, his decision to volunteer has brought him much joy and has been a great way to keep on top of his daily step count.

“People are very grateful we are doing this and that’s one of the main reasons I like to guide; that and talking to people,” said Ben. 

“It’s a great way to spend two days a week of your life and has definitely improved my well-being.

Ben is likely doing more steps a day than most people half his age, saying “the minimum I do a day is 10,000 to 12,000 steps, but the maximum I’ve counted is 26,000.”

“That’s a lot of walking, let me tell you. Guiding is a great way of doing exercise.”

Vera Critchley has volunteered at Westmead Hospital for over 20 years. She is group convenor of the fundraising volunteers and operates the fundraising stall that sells handmade crocheted and knitted items including blankets, beanies, scarves, children’s toys and booties. Money raised from this stall funds the purchase of hospital equipment.

She spends countless hours coordinating items, wrapping, ticketing and picking up donated items.  The good news is… she loves volunteering.

“Volunteering is something I’d always intended to do once I finished work and doing it at the hospital always interested me,” said Vera.

Vera is the “saleswoman” of the hospital, working hard to bring in funds, and feels lucky to have great people around her.

I feel very proud of my team; we’re very conscientious; all we want to do is make money, money, money,” laughed Vera.

“It’s such a pleasure when it comes to giving out the money; that really tops it all when we can distribute the money to different departments who require different things and that’s great.”

Graham Brown is convener of the buggy driver volunteer team and drives a buggy within the hospital to assist those who cannot walk to their destination. He started in 2015 and volunteers two days a week.

Graham thanks Westmead Hospital for saving his life and so was eager to give back to the hospital. Another special hospital tie for Graham; his wife worked at Westmead Hospital for more than 25 years.

“I had two brain abysses and I survived without an operation thanks to a team who visited me each morning and night – three weeks in hospital and five weeks at home,” said Graham.

“I’m grateful for the fact I’m still here and it made me think about the many people doing it tough that I can help on behalf of the hospital.”

Graham is incredibly humbled by this and encourages others to volunteer too.

“We’re short of buggy drivers and guides and welcome anyone that would be interested in joining the team and sharing in friendship and camaraderie – the key reasons I love about being here,” said Graham.

If you’re interested in volunteering at Westmead, Blacktown, Mount Druitt and Auburn hospitals, click here for more information.