An association created in 1944 by Marguerite Perrin, a social worker from Grenoble, moved by the solitude of young TB sufferers, under the name of « Work as a cure in Snatoriums ».
In 2004, the association took the name of : “LES BLOUSES ROSES”.
Through leisure and play activities in hospital the volunteers aim to distract and comfort people who are ill (children and adults), and also offer educational, creative and artistic activities for the elderly.
Volunteers in this association, Agnès Provost in the paediatric unit at Pontivy Hospital, and Annick Quérellou, in the geriatric unit, Maisons du Lac, Vannes Hospital , share some aspects of their engagement with you.
Annick, geriatric unit, Vannes Hospital
In September 2014 I joined the team of volunteers of the Vannes Committee of the “Blouses Roses”.
Why did I make this choice?
In January 2014, an 82 year old neighbour, Anne-Marie asked me to bring her communion. She lives alone in a big house, but is well known in the neighbourhood. From that Sunday on, I continued to visit her, wishing to find an association attentive to the needs of the elderly in a hospital setting.
One day, the title of an article in the local newspaper drew my attention : “The Blouses Roses change the daily lives of the elderly” … The association is looking for volunteers to work with the elderly in Vannes Hospital.” I asked to join and filled in the necessary paper-work … Accepted, I signed my volunteer engagement for a year.
What is my engagement?
- To give a half-day per week to lead activities in the designated service.
- To make myself available for the activities organised in order to make known the association, and for fund-raising.
- To participate in the training that is offered. The association invests a lot and in diverse areas. For example : the intervention of a neuro-pyschologist to help us relate to people suffering from Alzheimer’s … a workshop on “Well-being and massage” with the aim of maximising the well-being of the elderly and favourising human contact and listening.
What I appreciate
- That the association functions in a well-structured way : committee meetings with the information communicated afterwards to the volunteers.
- The very convivial relations between volunteers.
- The team work : everyone participates in the animation according to her abilities
- The intergenerational aspect : among the volunteers there are retired people, students preparing the entrance exams for the IFSI (Institute of Formation for Nurses), young mothers of families.
- The impact of the association’s project on children and the young, receptive to what is “humanitarian”.
- And above all, the welcome which the residents give us. They are visibly waiting for our activities which bring them entertainment, joy, comfort. “An antidote against solitude.”
I would say that this engagement gives me a place to live out the charism of the congregation in a very simple manner through my relations with the people I meet in the geriatric unit. Taking the time to say “Good morning” through what I say, looking at the person, touching them … sends me back to Jesus in the Gospel. I try to “take on” his attitude in this proximity with the brothers and sisters I meet each week in the Maisons du Lac of Vannes Hospital.
Agnès, Paeditrics, Pontivy Hospital
The association « Les Blouses Roses » has existed in Pontivy for 10 years now.
When I arrived in the community of Pontivy in September 2012, I joined this association which I discovered at the Forum of Associations where they had a stand. At this time it had about 20 volunteers. It now has almost 50 who go into 4 medicalised services for the elderly and into the paediatric service at the hospital.
After following an orientation programme with a team of experienced volunteers I opted for the children and adolescents at the hospital. The engagement which we sign asks us to be regular, to respect the association’s code of conduct as well as the values which it promotes, to participate in meetings and in the training provided (listening skills, communication, massage and well-being, hygiene, basic psychology of the child and the elderly, etc.) and to be willing to work in a team.
I go once a week to the paediatric service at the « Kério » hospital (at Noyal-Pontivy) with two other volunteers.
The children and adolescents easily recognise us by our pink smocks. We work in the ward playroom, but also sometimes in the child’s room when he or she has to stay in bed.
Our aim is to distract the children, and by distracting them, to pass an enjoyable moment together. We offer them games, a variety of activities, painting, reading a story, etc. It’s a moment that the families appreciate, because the parents (who are present also at night) can breathe a little, go for a coffee, go out … Often they join in our games and activities and you can hear bursts of laughter from afar ….. the medical and nursing staff, always attentive, cast an eye : “You look as if you are enjoying yourselves.”
Working with sick children calls for sensitivity, discretion, calm, gentleness. We take the time to get to know each other. I don’t impose myself, I don’t intervene in the work of the carers, but I ensure that the child is comfortable, I take care of him or her, of his body and his well-being.
I know nothing about the illness of the child or the young adolescent, I don’t ask any questions on this subject. If I learn something or if the parents talk to me, I maintain confidentiality.
The child has to feel confident; sometimes we have to calm his tears and reassure him. It’s easier in the presence of other children who are playing happily. Caught up in play, making an object, the child is totally absorbed in his activity. He forgets his pain and separation from the family. He has a great capacity to live the present moment.
The playroom comes alive after nap time. During an activity, one or the other will speak about her school, his friends, home … their cat or dog. Self expression becomes dialogue with others and they become partners. Sometimes the children wait for us with great impatience from one day to the next. A small boy, three years old, asked at the beginning of the afternoon : “When are the “roses” coming back?” (the ladies with the pink smocks!). He had made me a drawing which he handed to me with a big smile : “Here, that’s for you.”
For me, going to the hospital is giving of my time so that others can benefit a little from my experience, from my abilities. At the level of my faith life and religious life, it is letting myself “be evangelised” by the lives of people who are suffering. I feel diminished in the face of the anguish of these families. Simply being present, silent, strips you down, and takes you out of yourself. It’s a school of humility, there is nothing spectacular about it.
It makes me think of the Gospel of St Matthew, chapter 25 : “I was sick and you visited me”, or “In so far as you did this to one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did it to me.” The person of Jesus, when I contemplate him in his manner of meeting with the other, of easing the other’s pain, of healing, of re-giving the joy of living, that gives me the desire to meet with the sick children and adolescents and look on them as Jesus did, with benevolence and compassion.
Through our simple encounters, our simple gestures, we can show a little of the tenderness of God, of his love for the most fragile, the most suffering.
Another aspect that I find important to underline, is that I do not go the hospital in my own name. I go in the name of the association to which every volunteer is accountable for what he or she does. I do not go alone, but as part of a team. It is the solidarity between volunteers which gives a solidity to our action. We support each other, we share our ideas.
I am struck by the amount of energy deployed by many of the members of the group. They are driven by a care for others, the care to humanise the places of life hospitals, retirement homes, medicalised services for the elderly represent. They do count their time. There again, I find it very interesting to work in a network outside of the church. It is an opening. I meet many diverse people and realities. It is a school of tolerance, of mutual respect (a respect for religious and political convictions, etc.)
Many never refer to the Gospel. I have the opportunity to do so and to recognise the presence of Christ in all this life. This nourishes my prayer by opening me more and more to this world such as it is. I can, on occasion, share in community what I have lived, and we give thanks for all that is done by the carers, the volunteers, all those who, day by day, are alongside those who suffer and who serve their brothers and sisters in humanity.