Yvonne Ball volunteers as a team leader for the St John Hospital Friends programme in Oamaru. She talks about how she got involved in volunteering, and why she finds giving back rewarding.

Tell us a bit about yourself

I am originally from Auckland and am a single mum of three children; two are all grown up and have moved away and I have a beautiful granddaughter. My youngest child (now a teenager) has severe autism and epilepsy. I work for IHC as a Family Whanau Liaison in the North Otago region. I love the beach and animals – I have two dogs. Life is pretty busy but in my spare time I enjoy heading away on road trips and exploring new places in our caravan, time on my own and even the odd day curled up on the couch binge watching television.

Tell us about your volunteer role with St John

I think I am pretty lucky. I get to do the odd shift as a St John Hospital Friend, which means sitting with patients in hospital while they are waiting to see a nurse or doctor. Often these people are alone, so our role is to simply give them company, offer them a magazine or to grab them hot drinks and food while they are waiting. I also have the most amazing group of ladies that I work with. They are a wonderful team that works well together, which means I just support them whenever I am needed. I organise the monthly catch up meetings, take notes, do monthly reports, gather information when needed, co-ordinate the roster and any training, cover a shift if someone is unable to work and make sure everyone is doing ok. I also support St John when it needs help with the application and interview process for volunteers and anything else that ensures things run as smoothly as possible.

How did you get into volunteering with St John? 

I had decided I wanted to do something to help others but wasn’t sure what. I knew that I didn’t want a role that requires a huge time commitment. It wasn’t about money for me as I was really looking for something that would make a difference, something that I would enjoy and that would allow me to continue building on my current skill set. I saw an advert in my local paper calling on volunteers for St John and thought, wow, I can do that and three to five hours a week felt doable for me.

How long have you volunteered with St John? 

I’ve been volunteering as a St John Hospital Friend for a year now.

Why do you volunteer for St John?

Having a special needs daughter has meant we have had regular trips in ambulances over the years and I had always had the most amazing service and care during those very stressful times. To be honest, I have had a couple of wee accidents that have also required an ambulance trip to the hospital. My family had been St John supporters for several years and I loved the thought of not only being able to give back from our experience, but also supporting an organisation that continues to help people like us in a time of crisis.

What have you gained from being a volunteer? 

It is a wonderful feeling to know you are working in and helping your community; knowing that your small contribution really does make a difference. To be able to help someone feel supported in a time of crisis is really special. Although I don’t experience that personally unless I am working a shift, I do get it, because I support those ladies who sit with people in a time of fear, loneliness, pain and stress. If I didn’t do my little bit to support the volunteers with their role of helping patients and their families in hospital, then they wouldn’t be able to focus on doing the amazing and very much appreciated role that they have.

What are the highlights of being a volunteer?

One of the highlights of volunteer is being part of a team that really does make a positive difference in people’s lives during a time of crisis.

Share a memorable moment or event in during your time as a volunteer

I was doing a shift in ED when a patient was brought in, he didn’t have anyone with him, nor did he have his cellphone. I was able to do a little detective work and contact a family member to come and be with him. I sat with him until that person arrived; he was very grateful, and the hospital support person gave me a big hug for managing to find her. What was so special is that when I do the odd shift, I don’t often get to see someone again. In this instance, while I was doing paperwork at the hospital the following week, I ran into this patient having a check-up. It was just so lovely to see him getting better and they were so thankful for what I considered such a small thing I did.

Would you recommend others to volunteer for St John and why? 

Absolutely – it is an awesome organisation from my experience. Not only are its services so valuable and needed in our communities, the people are awesome!

Yvonne Ball
St John Hospital Friends

Interactive Volunteer Stories Map

This story was shared as part of our interactive map of volunteer stories from across Aotearoa, which we launched during #NVW2019. This map is filled with stories from volunteers throughout Aotearoa, New Zealand. This map celebrates the contribution of volunteers in their communities throughout Aotearoa. It aims to inspire people to engage in volunteering, Mahi Aroha and social action and to realise the benefits of weaving their communities together through their actions.