Julia Ware is no stranger to volunteering. Before moving to Canada in 2011, she volunteered in the UK, serving at a local children’s hospice.
“I really enjoyed my time there and found it extremely rewarding,” she says.
Because of her positive experience, she wanted to find something equally rewarding in her new country. An internet search led her to Matthew’s House.
Matthew’s House provides quality respite care for children who have complex care needs so that their families can get the rest they deserve. When Julia arrived in Canada, she had an opportunity to tour Matthew’s House and was truly impressed. She decided to apply and for the last year or so has enjoyed her visits with the children who visit here. Julia’s experiences will vary depending on the needs and abilities of the child who is staying there at the time.
“Some children love sitting at the keyboard and listening to music, some have a go themselves,” she says. “It’s lovely to look at books with some of the children, especially the interactive books with buttons that make noises.”
Wendy Toohey, who manages Matthew’s House, says volunteers like Julia are invaluable.
“Julia loves to run around and dance with some of our more active children,” Wendy says. “She always comes in with a fun positive nature and is very engaging with the children.”
Julia takes her cues from the children, which means it’s always an adventure. One of the young girls who visits often loves dancing to musical soundtracks and when she invited Julia to dance along it turned into one of her most special volunteer memories.
“We were dancing to the musical and she cast me in the lead role, standing us both in front of the mirror and pointing out what I should do, even though she doesn’t speak,” Julia recalls. “We were both laugh so much. It was such a special moment.”
When a child first meets Julia they might be shy or unsure but after a few minutes of just talking and playing together, they become more comfortable and want to do more together. She loves seeing their excitement when they venture out into the special playground at Matthew’s House or when there are opportunities to take the minibus and enjoy an outing. She is always impressed by how comfortable children feel when they are at Matthew’s House.
“I was once sitting with one of the children and he said to me ‘I am so happy’. I asked why he was happy and he replied ‘Because I love coming to Matthew’s House’. I think that says it all!”
For anyone considering a volunteer opportunity at Matthew’s House, Julia’s response is immediate.
“Go for it!” she says. “It is only a few hours of your day and for me, is one of the most rewarding things I have done.”