What is your name and where do you live?
Natalie Bliss, Philadelphia.
How long have you been volunteering for Ascend Hospice?
How often do you volunteer?
As often as once a week, depending on the needs and location of the client.
Why did you decide to enroll in this program?
As a Reiki Master Teacher, I feel it is important to respond to people’s need for healing. Since the concept of “hospice” in general carries a stigma in society, I felt that the need was probably greater among the hospice population than anywhere else I could volunteer.
How has the experience been in line with or different from what you expected?
When I first signed up, I expected less resistance to reiki among hospice clients and families. It was an awakening to learn that there is still a long way to go in educating people entering hospice and their families, and especially their professional on-site caretakers, about the blessing that a reiki session can be for someone that is in the sometimes drawn-out process of dying.
I have been extremely impressed and grateful for the support of the Ascend staff and how hard our volunteer coordinator, Marina McGough, works to introduce reiki in accessible ways to clients and their families. Any kind of energy healing can be difficult to explain to people facing end-of-life issues, and the team at Ascend does a great job of working with traditionally trained medical personnel, as well as the clients and families, to explain the benefits of reiki, aromatherapy, hand massage and other volunteer-provided support. The Ascend team makes commendable, coordinated efforts to make it available to everyone in their care.
I also did not expect the excellent level of ongoing training that Ascend requires, but also provides for volunteers at no charge, and the many ways they endeavor to show appreciation for volunteers’ services.
What have you learned from this experience?
I have learned that friendships with those that are dying can be formed and treasured in spite of their intrinsic impermanence.
What would you say to people that are considering volunteering but are hesitant?
Go ahead and apply. Take the volunteer training at Ascend and have a dialogue about your concerns with the Ascend staff. If in your heart you want to serve others, your selfless intention will find the right path to do so. There are so many ways to volunteer with Ascend, and every volunteer, even behind-the-scenes, is making a difference in someone’s life.
Is there anything else you would like readers to know?
The end of life is more peaceful when it is not approached with fear. Hospice staff and volunteers provide comfort, companionship and positive interactions that can ease the stress and loneliness of transition.
What do you think is the biggest misconception about working with people that are in hospice?
When I tell friends and associates that I am a hospice volunteer, they often raise eyebrows and comment on how “brave” I must be. I reply that it’s not bravery to enjoy being in the company of those that truly appreciate my efforts to infuse their day with a little peace, comfort and joy.