Hospice ‘about living’
While death is a subject some may prefer to sidestep, Dan Bouillet addresses it regularly as a volunteer who supports people dealing with terminal illness or the loss of a loved one.
“It’s a topic most people like to avoid, and I think it would surprise people what they could get out of it,” the South Surrey resident said.
As a volunteer with White Rock South Surrey Hospice Society, Bouillet has found there is much to be gained from helping strangers through such struggles.
“I would caution people not to be too stereotypical about what we do. It’s really about living, it’s not about dying, and it’s about helping people live.”
Bouillet began volunteering with hospice five years ago, after hearing about the society through a friend who lost her husband.
He underwent a basic training program, where he was oriented with the issues that arise when someone is faced with death.
“I didn’t fully understand where I could be of value through that process and I think it’s through the process where you realize those things.”
Bouillet, a full-time businessman, now provides care to individuals with advanced illness, those grieving loss and their friends and families.
Sometimes he meets people in their homes or a neighbourhood coffee shop; in other instances it may be necessary for him to visit them in hospital.
Whatever the setting, Bouillet is someone to talk to or with, and can direct people in what can often be an overwhelming and trying time.
While the hospice’s training helped him become a useful resource to those in need, Bouillet said there are some personal qualities that are essential for the role.
“I think you have to be a better listener than a talker,” he said.
“You have to have an ability to be sensitive to a person’s situation and their needs.”
The people he volunteers with range in age from 50 to 85 years old, but Bouillet is looking to take newly offered hospice training that focuses on youth and children.
The longest he has spent with a person has been six months, he said, noting the rich, genuine relationships that develop are what makes the position so rewarding.
But it’s difficult, too, especially when one of those he has cared for dies.
“You’re walking alongside them, helping them prepare for it. It’s a natural thing, but it’s not an easy thing.”
Bouillet said the overall experience is a positive one, and he has learned a lot from the people he has met.
“I’m one of those people that likes to think I’ll be a little different each day through my experiences.”
Bouillet acknowledged that the position might not be for everybody, and pointed to all the other ways to get involved with hospice.
With about 200 volunteers, the society needs people to help with administration, its local thrift store and special events – such as this weekend’s Hike 4 Hospice, which is to raise money and awareness for the organization.
“We want to bring awareness in the community, get the community involved,” Bouillet said, noting there is a large demand for health services in a system that is constantly under pressure.
“We want to look at expanding the care in the area.
“There’s a need wherever you look.”
However one chooses to support the organization, Bouillet said the effort may have an unexpected return.
“Initially I got involved to see what I could offer into it, and now down the road, I’m realizing how much I’ve gotten out of it.”
Hike 4 Hospice
White Rock South Surrey Hospice Society’s ninth annual national Hike 4 Hospice – a one-, three- or five-kilometre walk – will be held Sunday, May 1 from 9 a.m. to noon, starting in Blackie Spit Park in Crescent Beach.
Cost is $10 per person or $25 per family.
Registration fee includes entry into prize draws and a Hike hat, while supplies last.
Prizes will be awarded for most pledges.
For more information, to register or pledge on behalf of a hiker, visit www.whiterockhospice.org
A week later, on May 7, the society is to present the Universal Gospel Choir at 7:30 p.m. at White Rock Baptist Church, 1657 140 St.
The gospel is to celebrate the world’s sacred and social-conscience songs with performances from African-American, Cuban, African, European, Jewish, Asian and Native American music traditions.
Tickets ($25) are available at www.whiterockhospice.org or 604-531-7484.