December 2, 2020

Volunteer Services Team wins 2020 COVID-19 Support and Connection Award

Congratulations to our Northern Health Volunteer Services Team, declared the winner of the Volunteering Victoria‘s 2020 COVID-19 Support and Connection Award!

The state award was given to the organisation that achieved strong ongoing support and connection for their volunteers during the pandemic. This award showcases the hard work, creativity and genuine kindness the team has demonstrated towards our volunteers, and our volunteers towards each other.

“I am very proud of our Volunteer Services Team,” said Andrew Williamson Executive Director Public Affairs and Foundation.  “The team  has been  absolutely committed to keep our volunteers engaged and connected during this challenging  year.  The Award from Volunteers Victoria is well deserved.”

Northern Health has over 300 dedicated volunteers, who work across our sites to help us provide support and care to our patients. As a result of the pandemic, they are not on-site for their safety and wellbeing.

However, the Volunteer Services Team was quick to recognise that, “Many of our volunteers told us that the physical distancing and isolation made them feel really anxious and stressed,” says Henni Wade, Manager, Volunteer Services. The team quickly got to work to reach out to the volunteers.

One way of keeping in regular contact was the daily newsletter. The volunteer team has sent out their 180th newsletter that has provided information, humour, and inspiration that keeps the volunteers connected with each other.

“Volunteers sent in photographs of their ‘iso’ activities and we had some volunteers being guest editors, adding their own personal touches to the daily update,” says Henni.

Carol, a volunteer from Northern Hospital, says “Having a daily, rather than a weekly newsletter better represents real life as many of us volunteer on more than one day and catch up with other volunteers. The combination of silly jokes and uplifting quotes is a nice balance and lifts the day for many, especially for those who are isolated. Receiving the newsletter throughout the COVID 19 restrictions keeps us informed, but more importantly, it lets us know that the co-ordinators care enough to do this so regularly.”

“Our program evolved from one where the main focus was the volunteers providing  support to the health service to one where the health service was supporting our volunteers, helping to keep them well at home,” says Monica Polimeni, Volunteer Coordinator.

“Volunteer Week was another such opportunity, ‘to make a fuss of our volunteers’,” says Monica.

A TikTok dance video, a volunteer song, thank you videos from Peter Hitchener from Channel 9 and the Clown Doctors, thank you messages from staff collated and put together in a colourful booklet were some of the ways the volunteers were made to feel special in that week.

Literally going that extra distance, Henni, Christine and Monica also spent three days on the road, dropping in unannounced and surprising their long standing volunteers with Length of Service Awards.

“The effort you put in to make sure Volunteer Week was special, going from door to door to deliver the awards to people who were celebrating significant milestones… while not forgetting the other ones who are in between these dates,” says Julia Arlow, a volunteer from Broadmeadows Hospital.

“From setting up virtual chats, to filming funny TikTok videos and developing daily newsletters, our Volunteer Services Team has worked hard to not only keep in touch with our volunteers, but to genuinely provide support in the challenging times. For many of our volunteers, we are their second family, and that is how we feel about them too,” says Christine McGowan, Volunteer Coordinator.