While most teenagers spend their Sunday mornings sleeping-in, St Paul’s Collegiate School students are up early escorting Waikato Hospital’s patients to Sunday morning chapel services.
Most of the patients attend the services for guidance, comfort or a quiet refuge from the noisy wards and the dark reality they may face.
Jessica Chanwai, St Paul’s Collegiate Head Girl, says that despite the troubles of ill-health which must weigh down patients, they are ever so kind as to share their stories with her.
One patient in particular has touched Jessica’s life, helping her to see things in a new light.
“He told me to learn from his mistakes so that I wouldn’t end up in a position like his,” Jessica explained.
“He also told me to go out and do what’s best for me and not let anyone take that away from me. To do what makes me happy.”
Fellow student Bethany Langton has had a similar experience.
“Every week I meet someone with a fascinating story behind them. I've been told that I can do anything, to never give up and that God will always be with me,” Bethany said.
Moments like these can be defining for young people like Jessica and Bethany. A message like this is so strong that it can lead a young person in the right direction, giving them a greater appreciation for life.
Jessica says this volunteer work puts her life into perspective: “You can see how many people are less fortunate and in more pain than we are.”
“It puts our little worries that we fret about and make so big into perspective because these people are dealing with something so much bigger, they are fighting for their lives. It reminds me of how privileged I am to lead a healthy life.”
For students like Jessica, the volunteering experience is also about giving back. Fellow volunteer and school mate Nonthiwat Seehamart says people should try to remember to give back and to not get caught up in the fast lane of work or school.
Nonthiwat says: “Small gestures can change someone’s life; you should be a reason for someone’s smile. There is nothing more beautiful than that.”
More than 40 students have volunteered for Waikato Hospital’s chapel services over the past two years with the school encouraging students to participate through eight supervised visits per year.
St Paul’s Reverend Craig Luccock said that although the school only supervises eight visits, students like Jessica, Bethany and Nonthiwat often attend services several times throughout the year as volunteers in their own time.