Young Hospice volunteer finds new appreciation for life name

Young Hospice volunteer finds new appreciation for life

Not many teenagers would choose to give up their evening to help out at their local hospice, but for Leila Sills it's a privilege.

While her friends might be studying or working, on a given Monday night you can find the south Auckland high school student serving drinks, washing dishes, and chatting to patients.

Leila's been volunteering at Totara Hospice in Manurewa for nearly a year - signing up the day she turned 15, the volunteer age limit.

It's something she's been wanting to do for years. Her grandmother was cared for by a hospice in the final stages of a bowel cancer battle while Leila was only two-years-old.

"I didn't understand she was going through something really harsh, in my mind I was going to a place to play with my toys," Leila says.

"But as I grew up I started asking questions about it... I found it really interesting and I've always been asking about how to get involved."

Leila is one of the youngest on the Totara Hospice team of 628 volunteers, helping out in the inpatient unit as well as the retail store.

The organisation caters for south and east Auckland, providing free specialist palliative care to a community of more than 480,000 people.

In a financial year, its volunteer workforce contributes about 180,000 hours of work to the Hospice and those hours equate to $4 million worth of operating expenses.

Having people like Leila on the team is refreshing, Totara Hospice fundraising and marketing head Melinda Seal says.

"It's always exciting whenever we hear from someone unique like Leila," Melinda says.

"And meeting her we knew she was, she's got a great attitude and family support and she has an enthusiasm for working in all areas."

Along with gaining skills to help Leila in future jobs, volunteering at Hospice has been a great way to meet new people and learn more about healthcare - a field she wants to work in.

It's also teaching her how to deal with grief in a positive way, with some patients now just a memory to her.

"It used to make me sad but it's given me new eyes and I appreciate life a lot more," Leila says.

This article was published by Emily Ford in the Manukau Courier - Click here to view the original article.

Find information on volunteering with Totara Hospice here.