15th June 2018

Special women thanked for 50 years of volunteering

Two very special women who have been putting smiles on children's faces for nearly 50 years are being celebrated.

Doreen Birchfield and Debz Turner are volunteers at Tauranga Hospital's Children's Ward and are being thanked for their dedication as National Volunteer Week is marked (17th-23rd June).

"The kids love asking me how old I am," said 81-year-old mother, grandmother and great-grandmother Doreen. "One little girl asked me once and when I told her she screwed her face up and said: 'Yuck you're nearly 100!'"

Come rain, hail or sunshine, Doreen has walked from her home to the hospital every Wednesday for her two-hour 'shift' since 1996. She started volunteering at Auckland's Princess Margaret Hospital in 1989 and spent six years at Starship Children's Hospital before moving to Tauranga. On Mondays, Doreen also volunteers to spend time with the 'elderly' at Tauranga's Fraser Manor resthome.

"I love people and coming to the hospital, the kids keep me going, and the Children's Ward team are a like a family. I really enjoy it."

Play Specialist Donna Opie said Doreen emanates warmth, knowledge and kindness. "It's that grandmotherly approach that the children love," she said.

Debz Turner, who is in her 27th year of service, is the ward's longest serving volunteer. In the early days Debz said there was often a queue of children waiting for the toy trolley to arrive in the morning. She has seen lots of changes including the shorter stays the children have in hospital now.

"We used to get to know some of the children really well as they often stayed for weeks," she said. She has seen some children, whose conditions mean they are regular visitors, grow from babies to teenagers.

In the early 2000s, when Debz lived in Gate Pa, she volunteered up to three days a week. Having moved to Papamoa in 2010, she continues to commute via bus one afternoon a week, helping maintain the playroom and resources and is always eager for a board game.

Her greatest highlight, she said, "was to see smiles on the children's faces".

Play Specialist Team Leader Debbie McDougall said the commitment shown by Debz over the years had been unwavering.

"She is open and accepting and willing to undertake any task that is required to ensure a welcoming and safe playroom," she said.

Captions: 1. Michael Wenzel (left) with his 7-month-old son Lucas (right) and volunteer Doreen Birchfield (seated centre). 2.  Debz Turner is in her 27th year of volunteering at Tauranga Hospital.

For more details contact:

James Fuller
Communications Advisor
Bay of Plenty District Health Board

Last updated: August 29, 2018