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Retired teachers learning new lessons by volunteering

Thursday, 07 June 2018

A pair of retired teachers are heading back to the classroom after volunteering to help children at Scotland’s largest children’s hospital.

Lifelong friends Jill Rennie (60) and Cathie Lees (59) – who were both teachers for 38 years – have been Hospital Education Volunteers for Glasgow Children’s Hospital Charity for almost a year.

Cathie, a retired head teacher from Glengowan Primary in Larkhall and Jill, who still teaches on a part-time basis at Spittal Primary in Rutherglen, have known each other since the age of 12.

After going through high school together, they both went into teaching, and are now embarking on their volunteering journey together too with Glasgow Children’s Hospital Charity.

And now the pair, from Rutherglen are calling on more people to sign up to do their bit as National Volunteers’ Week draws to a close.

Cathie said: “I may have been a head teacher before retiring, but I’ve learned a lot by becoming a volunteer with Glasgow Children’s Hospital Charity. I have always admired people who gave their time to help good causes, but always associated volunteering in a hospital with working in a shop or café. Never in a million years did I think I could use the skills I’d amassed over the course of almost 40 years to help teach sick children.

“It’s wonderful to be able to spend one-to-one time with each child. Just 25 minutes in one shift makes all the difference, and we’re able to support the teachers on the ward to make sure they can do their jobs to the best of their ability.

“Jill and I have had our eyes opened over the past year. We have a unique opportunity to interact with young patients and their parents and help them to experience a bit of normality in sometimes difficult circumstances – like preparing for their exams while undergoing treatment. It’s an incredibly humbling experience.”

Jill added: “The beauty of coming in as a volunteer is that you can be as flexible as you need to be. I still work as a teacher a couple of days a week, but can still give back during my one shift. And while we get to use our skills, it’s more fluid than working in the school environment – as a child may not be up to doing any literacy or numeracy, or may be with a doctor or nurse. Sometimes, we just have a chat with the children, or their parents because all they need is some company.

“I can’t recommend volunteering enough – whether you’re retired, still working, young or old. The children and parents show you so much appreciation, and you get to meet wonderful people. We have come into contact with so many people who volunteer across many different roles – most that we didn’t even realise existed. There’s a place for everyone, whether it’s a role in the hospital or out and about fundraising on behalf of the charity.”

Glasgow Children’s Hospital Charity’s is urging new people from all walks of life to join their volunteer team, which collectively donated more than 17,000 hours of their time over the last year.

Shona Cardle, chief executive of Glasgow Children’s Hospital Charity, said: “The work that Cathie and Jill volunteer to do is absolutely vital in ensuring the children being treated at the hospital do not miss out on learning while they’re in hospital. We are incredibly fortunate to count people like Cathie and Jill among our team of committed volunteers – and we’re very proud to be part of the ladies’ lifelong friendship.

“National Volunteers’ Week is coming to a close, and we hope it encourages even more fundraising volunteers to our team to join us at events across the country. Whether it’s shaking buckets, cheering on participants or supporting local fundraising initiatives, every minute given really does count.”

To join the team of volunteers for Glasgow Children’s Hospital Charity, visit www.glasgowchildrenshospitalcharity.org or call 0141 212 8750.