For 14-year-old Alice Wang working as a Candy Striper at Penticton Regional Hospital the last two years has been a lesson in compassion.
“It really has taught me a lot. In the hospital you see so many different people in different situations and it’s really nice to stop and talk to them, because a lot of them don’t have many visitors and now I realize how much it means to them,” said Wang during her shift at Westview Place Wednesday. “I especially love talking to the elderly people in the ECU (Extended Care Unit).
“I always wanted to give back to the community and my sister did it and said it was super fun and it is.”
For the Grade 9 Penticton Secondary School student, along with giving back there has been significant personal growth as well.
“My sister said it was really good to help develop your social skills and it really has. I used to be super introverted and now I’m talking to all these people and I really love it,” she said.
For Vanessa McLennan, 14, who is also a Grade 9 student at Penticton Secondary School, this was her first year as a Candy Stripe volunteer.
“It was really good, and what I really liked was going around and delivering the ice water and seeing all the patients. They’re all sick but they always seem happy to see the Candy Stripers around,” said McLennan, who plans to be a doctor. “I think just by seeing all elements of people in here for sure it changed my perspective on things.
“Also, because I’m interested in the health care industry, I wanted to see what it’s all about before I actually go into that field.”
This week is the final one of the season for student members of the Candy Striper and Cadet program that runs during the school year.
“This is the time we start recruiting for next year and kids have until Aug. 31 for sign up for the start in September,” said Launa Stocker, who is the volunteer co-ordinator at PRH. “This absolutely helps them understand what compassion is, to see what other people are going through and the challenges they face.
“It gives them a very good ’real world’ experience and we see a big change in the kids. We see a building of confidence and just that feeling that they’re giving back to the community, it’s very good and rewarding for them.”
The young volunteers, there were 32 this past season, are required to commit for the full school term working a minimum of one day a week for an hour and a half.
“They certainly have an opportunity to do more if they want to,” said Stocker. “I had a group of five who came out and helped with the appreciation dinner for the adult volunteers which was just wonderful.
The program is open to boys and girls starting at age 13.
Candy Stripers have worked at PRH for just over a half century, celebrating their 50th anniversary locally in 2014.
“Being a Candy Striper gives them a good opportunity, if anybody is interested in pursuing a career in heath care and of course it’s just also a way for them to give back,” said Stocker. “It actually helps them to build other friendships within their peer group and of course it looks impressive on a resume.”
She added the young volunteers are also at the top of the list when it comes to awarding of some scholarships and bursaries.
Anyone wishing to sign up for the program or learn more about it can contact Stocker at 250-492-4000, local 2294 or email her Launa.Stocker@interiorhealth.ca.