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Why does EPC need volunteers?

EPC volunteers bring part of the community into people’s homes, to help them feel connected and supported at a time when other social supports may have fallen away. They can offer normality and someone understanding to talk to.

Our service originated with volunteers many years ago, and they are now a key part of our circle of care for clients and carers. Whether it’s to share a laugh, just listen, go out for coffee or give a carer some much-needed time out, EPC couldn’t offer the great service we do without volunteers…and our clients really look forward to their visits.

 

‘Volunteering in palliative care shows us the fragility and vulnerability of the human body while also allowing us to experience the courage of the human spirit.’ – Anne, EPC volunteer

 

‘Wow! What a difference I hear in the voice and experience of my clients, since they have had a volunteer assigned to them.’ – Liz, EPC staff member

How can I become a volunteer?

Read about our volunteer roles HERE.

EPC has a public information session each year, where you can speak with staff and volunteers about the work we do and what it is really like to volunteer with us.

Fill in our application form HERE and we will call you for a chat about the role you are interested in, or feel free to call us with any questions on 1300 130 813 (ask for Volunteer Services).

We have an interview process before offering new volunteers a place in our training program.

Please note that we usually only train new volunteers once a year, so depending on when you apply, there could be a wait until we open interviews.

Who can volunteer?

Anyone can volunteer with EPC! We do have a few requirements but, mostly, we need people who just can be themselves and want to help.

We need you to:

  • Live in our region: Boroondara, Manningham, Whitehorse, Monash, Knox, Maroondah and Yarra Ranges
  • Have some free time during the week – we are flexible around holidays and family commitments
  • Be over 18 years of age
  • Be an Australian resident
  • Complete a police record check and Working With Children check during training – no cost to you
  • Have a car and driver licence
  • Attend our full volunteer training program
  • Attend some of our monthly volunteer training events and meetings (in person or online)

Inclusion statement:

EPC values equal opportunity, diversity and inclusion and we welcome volunteers irrespective of race, age, gender or religion. We are happy to discuss the requirements of our volunteer roles for people with a disability or from diverse communities, and look at any adjustments we can reasonably make. EPC will do everything possible to ensure that each volunteer is correctly matched with an appropriate role.  This will always be done in consultation with the volunteer.

Do I need special skills to volunteer?

What we need most in our volunteers are great listening skills, empathy and patience. Our volunteers come from a wide range of backgrounds and bring different strengths.

Some roles do need special skills:

  • Biography – we will only take volunteers with typing and word processing skills for this team– otherwise it can be too stressful. Our volunteers asked us to say that you also need a willingness to learn and an ability to adapt to a variety of clients and their situations.
  • ‘Give a lift’ driver team – you need to be comfortable driving and parking around hospitals including in the Melbourne CBD.
  • SmileMakers photography – you must be a professional or highly-skilled amateur portrait photographer and have your own gear – all roles take place in client homes, gardens or parks.
  • Cloud 9 hairdressing – you must have current or recent experience in hairdressing or barbering as well as certification (this does not need to be current)

What are the benefits of volunteering with EPC?

We asked our volunteers to answer this for you – from their points of view. There were pages full of suggested responses so we’ve just shown a few. Here’s what they had to say (in their own words):

The benefits are immeasurable both for you, the client and the organisation. For example:

  • You’ll be volunteering with a well-run and respected palliative care organisation.
  • You will be treated as a valued team member where your work is acknowledged and appreciated.
  • You will get individual ongoing support and group training by staff and other volunteers.
  • The work is both enjoyable and very rewarding.
  • The opportunity exists to extend your volunteer skills in other parts of the organisation other than the role you volunteered for.
  • You provide a valuable service that otherwise could not be offered due to the cost involved of a paid employee.
  • You make a difference to people who are at a vulnerable stage in life.
  • There is a low drop-out rate which speaks for itself, and surprisingly you will enjoy a lot of shared laughter.
  • Your brain will be kept active.
  • You will feel like you are making a difference and giving back.
  • You will not be alone – this is a strong, friendly network of volunteers.

What is the time commitment?

The time commitment varies with each role. Here are some examples – and remember that you need to add in travel time to and from the client’s home:

  • Community Support – 2-3 hours once a week.
  • Carer respite – up to 4 hours once a week.
  • Dog walking – up to 2 half-hour walks a week.
  • Biography – one hour visit during business hours each week PLUS several hours a week of transcribing and editing – depends on your typing speed and experience with word processing, placing photos and editing.
  • Driving to medical appointments – can be between 2-6 hours, including waiting time, and is usually one visit.

Volunteers in the above roles are placed with one person at a time and may visit from only a few times to several months, depending on the wishes and health of the client and the availability of the volunteer.

Note: SmileMaker photographers and Cloud 9 hairdressers visit clients once for a few hours and there is editing time added for photographers.

Will I receive training?

Yes, you will receive full training and be well supported both through training and beyond.  Training is 5-7 days (one day a week) but that will vary depending on your role. We make sure each volunteer is ready and supported to do their work and that great working relationships are built between volunteers and staff.

Why do I need to have a car and driver’s licence to volunteer?

We work across 7 government areas of Melbourne’s east, which is a huge area. We have to prioritise volunteers who can drive up to 30 minutes from their home in any direction and live in the same region as our clients. Using public transport is not practical as clients may not live close enough to a station or bus stop – past volunteers have tried and it is too difficult.

What should I expect to see when I first meet a client?

Clients’ appearances will vary: some people will seem healthy and others unwell.  There may be medical equipment or a hospital bed in the house.  It is important to remember that all are normal people living every day, but with a life-limiting illness. You will always be fully briefed so you know what to expect before your first visit.

 

“Our clients are living with an illness but mostly look very normal; some may have hair loss following treatments or they may be a little short of breath and be experiencing fatigue… however they are otherwise just like us and like to be treated the same way.” – Marie, EPC volunteer

What support will I receive as a volunteer?

At EPC, we know how vitally important it is to support volunteers who are working in palliative care. We put a lot of time and thought into this and our volunteers tell us they do feel well-supported. This is backed up by the results of independent, anonymous surveys of our volunteers by Best Practice Australia, run every two years.

We offer all volunteers training, ongoing education and mentoring, peer support groups, emotional support and debriefing.  If there is a need for professional support we offer free access to our Employee Assistance Program (EAP).

The EPC volunteer tribe is strongly connected and there is plenty of room for humour, fun and friendship as well.  And our door is always open.

 

“There is always debriefing available at any time by picking up the phone and speaking to someone.  We also have our own individual network of volunteers – a smaller group – and we meet regularly.”

 

“I imagine we all go into volunteering with EPC knowing our clients’ lives are limited, and as sad as it often is, there are so many joyous, funny and uplifting moments too.” – Veronica, EPC Volunteer

But isn’t it sad?

“Volunteering in palliative care can be sad at times. However, it is also a very positive experience to spend time with another person nearing the end of their life, and there is a lot of laughter and shared stories too.”

 

It’s an important point, so we asked our volunteers to answer it for you. Here are some more of their responses:

 

The Companionship team:

“Resounding NO from the group! Although there are sad aspects to it, it is a positive, happy and uplifting experience.”

 

“There are sad moments, but there are more smiles than tears”

 

“Yes, it is sad, but also uplifting to know you can make a small difference. The work we do brings so much joy and comfort.”

 

“It can be sad at times, however the clients on the whole just want to laugh and chat about life in general. They see us as bringing back ‘normal’ into their lives. We allow them to forget about the medical appointments etc. for just a short period each week.”

 

The Biography team:

 

“Yes it is sad, but also incredibly humbling, rewarding and joyous. It’s sadder to think that the person might die without their story being recorded.  People on palliative care are not just ‘people who are dying’, they are people who have had lives. They are at a difficult point in their life, but they have a right to have all the ‘living’ remembered and respected.

 

“Of course this work can be sad. But this sadness is more than balanced by the joy and satisfaction we volunteers experience from helping someone complete their life story – and in doing so, create a wonderful legacy for their families and friends. It is a privilege to be part of this important work.”

 

“Engaging and connecting deeply with clients who share the story of their life with you is fulfilling, enlightening and such a privilege.  I cherish these small moments of connection.”

 

“ You feel for all involved but it’s truly a privilege to be invited to share a person’s last chapter of their life. All barriers are usually down and there’s a frank honesty with the client and family that they are prepared to share with you.”

Do volunteers have to wear a uniform?

No. All you need is a smile and an identification tag provided by EPC.

Any further questions?

Please call us on 1300 130 813 and ask to speak with a member of the Volunteer Services team. We’re passionate about finding the right role for our volunteers and would love to chat with you!