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Students bringing comfort to patients

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Three students from Somersfield Academy have been brightening up the lives of patients in the hospital's continuing care unit and hope to leave a lasting legacy behind them.

As part of a school project, M3 students Kate Tobin, Kyaida Lanthier and Matthew Elliott have been paying visits to King Edward VII Memorial Hospital twice a week for the past year to bring comfort and cheer to the long-term patients through music, poetry, art and good old-fashioned conversation.

They say their programme has been such a success they would like to keep it running for other students to volunteer their time.

All three students said they had personal reasons for wanting to visit the patients, many of whom are elderly and can get lonely at times. Kate's grandfather had lymphoma and was in and out of hospital; Kyaida's great-grandmother was in a nursing home and recently passed away; and Matthew said he could relate because his grandfather, who died about a year ago, used to live in a nursing home.

Kate told The Royal Gazette: “We came up with the idea to go visit them and set up an art programme.”

“We just wanted to brighten up the CCU ward because it should be a place of positivity,” explained Matthew.

Kyaida added: “We went to the front desk and got an e-mail address for the CCU co-ordinator. We e-mailed her and she loved our idea.

“It was hard to get a time that we could all go but we found time and started going. Each week we got less and less guidance. Now the co-ordinator asks what we want to do; she tells us which wards to go to and we go and interact.”

The students did their research and visited an art therapist at the Mid Atlantic Wellness Institute who offered guidance on some activities they could do with the patients. They also received guidance from their English teacher on text that they could read.

During their visits to four CCU wards, the students initiate art activities, read poetry and perform music. They also help with practical tasks such as massaging the patients' hands, which can help with their dexterity. One project involved decorating bean pods with silver paint and gemstones.

Kyaida recalled: “We helped them to put the gems on the bean pods and gave them to the patients to brighten up their rooms and make them prettier.”

Matthew added: “Every time they wake up they see the project that they did with us and it makes them happier.”

But it is not just the patients who are getting something out of the programme — the students themselves have gained a sense of fulfilment and worth through their efforts.

Kate explained: “I leave feeling happy that I am making a positive impact. We are learning about their lives too. One is a retired gospel singer and she toured all around the world. It is interesting as well. It is quite fulfilling for us too — it makes us feel good.

“We have been told on multiple occasions that we made their day. When we made the bean pods, one woman said ‘we get to keep them?' and she looked so happy.”

Matthew said: “This project has inspired me to do other community work — I wasn't expecting the difference we made. I have been volunteering my time to KBB. We are becoming emotionally attached.”

The students said one patient enjoyed their visits so much she has “adopted” them as her own children.

They have enjoyed their time so much that they plan to continue visiting the patients in some capacity going forward. However, they also want to encourage others to give their time.

“We want other students to come to make it a long-term project — they can start off just observing,” Matthew said.

“The staff have really liked us being there too. We can't see everyone so we want more volunteers,” said Kate. “We are trying to set up a long-term programme so our peers can go and volunteer. We are writing a curriculum — what to do each week with the patients — and we're hoping that it can continue. We are trying to raise awareness for the need for volunteers. It is a very meaningful cause and it is fulfilling.”

Somersfield students Kyaida Lanthier, Kate Tobin and Matthew Elliott have been volunteering theirtime with patients in the continuing care unit at King Edward IV Memorial Hospital. (Photograph by Sarah Lagan)
Students at Somersfield Academy have been bonding with patients that they are visiting at the hospital on a voluntary basis.
Kyaida Lanthier plays piano for patients at the hospital as part of a volunteering project.
From left, back row M3 Somersfield Students Matthew Elliott, Kate Tobin and Kyaida Lanthier, pictured with CCU patient Martha Harvey.  

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Published May 23, 2017 at 9:00 am (Updated May 23, 2017 at 1:47 am)

Students bringing comfort to patients

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