14th May 2019
Bronwen Coleman has been volunteering at Calvary Health Care Bethlehem hospital (Bethlehem) in Melbourne for the last 6 months.
Bronwen is a trained actor who worked in film and TV in New York for 13 years appearing in Law and Order; and In the Academy award winning film Capote with Philip Seymour Hoffman amongst other credits.
Bronwen moved back to Australia quite suddenly in 2014 to support her mother and father after her mother was diagnosed with MND. Her mother died at Bethlehem in 2015 and like many volunteers at Bethlehem, Bronwen was drawn to volunteer at the health service after witnessing patients being cared for at the end of their life without the support of loved ones. She wanted to make a difference.
After starting at the Day Centre she saw the opportunity to bring a little of the immediacy and vitality of theatre into the day centre by putting on readings for the visiting community palliative patients.
What sort of volunteering do you do here at Bethlehem?
I volunteer on St Theresa’s ward offering chats and hand massages to patients and on a monthly basis I also bring in rehearsed scenes from plays for the day patients. We usually talk a little about the play and its historical/cultural context, hear the scene read by two actors, then have a great chat about what in the work “spoke to” the patients, their own associations with the material, etc.
What is it that you enjoy about the volunteering work that you do here at Bethlehem?
It’s lovely to be able to connect with people no matter what stage they’re at in their illness, and to feel that I might be able to bring some warmth into the room and perhaps brighten up someone’s experience for a short while.
What is it that drew you to volunteer at Bethlehem?
My mother was an MND patient when the hospital was in Caulfield. She was admitted as a terminal patient, and my father was incredibly dedicated in ensuring one of us was always with my mother while she was awake. I saw that this wasn’t necessarily the case for other patients, and thought at the time that if my work circumstances allowed it at some point it I’d like to help out.
What is your most memorable experience since starting here?
It’s definitely the moments when I feel I’ve connected with the patients It’s great to hear about people’s lives and adventures.
What would you say to someone who might be contemplating volunteering here at Bethlehem?
Do it! It’s really fulfilling, and what a wonderful thing to feel you are making a positive contribution to the world around you. People certainly don’t lose their humanity when they’re terminally ill, and I very much feel you can make a real difference to someone’s experience.
Find out more about Calvary Bethlehem here
If you are interested in volunteering with Calvary find out more here