US Chesed News

View from a Jewish Visiting Volunteer
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Thursday 4th June 2015

"The best thing about being a hospital visitor is the wonderful stories I hear about people’s lives"

My name is Leanne Waldman - I’m 36 and am married with 2 children, a son aged 9 and a daughter aged 7.  I have been a volunteer visitor at Whipps Cross Hospital for almost 5 years. 

Hospital visiting was something that I had been considering for a long while but I didn’t know how to go about it.  Both of my children were now at school or nursery and as I had not returned to my previous career in advertising, I had plenty of free time.  I had looked online at websites such as Jewish Care but couldn’t find the exact type of volunteer role that I was looking for.  Then sadly, a very close friend of mine’s mother was diagnosed with terminal cancer and spent many weeks in Whipps Cross.  Whilst visiting her one afternoon, another hospital volunteer came to visit her.  I spoke to the volunteer and explained that I was extremely interested in doing what she was doing.  She took my details and I was then contacted by another hospital volunteer, joint chairperson of the Newbury Park League and an old family friend.  To cut a long story short, I met with her and then with a Sister who was then a chaplain at Whipps Cross and was given the go ahead to join the Whipps Cross Visitors rota.  On my first visit I shadowed two other visitors - learning the ropes as such.  We never ask why patients are in hospital or anything that could be too personal such as what synagogue they go to although often they mention it themselves in the bid to find out who we know that they know in our small Jewish world. 

Our Whipps Cross team is currently made up of 7 lovely ladies and my role now includes putting the visiting rota together for Whipps Cross and also for a separate group of ladies who give their time willingly to visit at King Georges Hospital.  During term time, I visit fortnightly and spend a morning at the hospital.  We go to every ward and with the help of the ward sisters or ward clerks we seek out the Jewish patients and spend a while chatting with each of them if they are feeling well enough. The majority of patients that we see are elderly and I have met some remarkable and memorable patients over the last four years.  The best thing about being a hospital visitor is the wonderful stories I hear about people’s lives. It is also a good feeling when we get feedback from patients and their families to say how appreciative they were of our visits.  The hospital day is long and monotonous and many people have widespread families and don’t receive regular visits.  The hardest part is seeing a patient that you get to know decline in health or pass away and also hearing that patients are experiencing difficulties - with their families, with the care they are receiving or various other issues.  We visit in pairs and it’s good to have someone to talk to when we encounter cases like this. 

Overall, I find hopsital visiting to be a very rewarding experience.  It’s only a few hours each month and I really feel that those hours are put to good use.  We would love to expand the team that we have so we could increase our visits from every week to twice a week and I would be very happy to talk to anyone in more depth if it is something that they feel they may be interested in.