PEI

Hospice PEI searching for more male volunteers

Hospice PEI is looking for more male volunteers to help with the organization's many male clients.

'I don't think it's something men traditionally think they'd volunteer at'

David Blacquiere demonstrates playing crokinole, something he does during his volunteer time with hospice clients. Hospice PEI is looking for more male volunteers. (Randy McAndrew/CBC)

Hospice PEI is looking for more male volunteers to help with the organization's many male clients.

"We have lots of volunteers but the majority are women, and probably half of the clients that we work with would be male," said Nancymarie Arsenault, executive director of Hospice PEI.

"It always has been a challenge to get male volunteers."

"I would say probably there might be a misconception that the nurturing and caring of the dying may be considered women's work," Arsenault said.

"I think we need to do work with all populations on death and dying, but for recruitment purposes, yes, I think we need to identify a specific male population to come and do this very important work."

Nancymarie Arsenault says some people may think the nurturing and caring of the dying is women's work. (Randy McAndrew/CBC)

Arsenault says Hospice PEI has started targeting men's groups as a source for more volunteers.

"We haven't had to advertise in the past," Arsenault said. "But because we have a number of our long-term male volunteers retiring or have died themselves, we see a need to recruit more men."

Many of the longtime volunteers with Hospice PEI are women. (Submitted by Hospice PEI)

Arsenault said Hospice PEI currently has a waiting list of 40 volunteers, most of them women.

"I think once we begin to explain the role of male volunteers and the value of having a male volunteer matched with a male client, I think men get it," Arsenault.

"I don't think it's something men traditionally think they'd volunteer at." 

Hospice PEI is reaching out to men's groups for more volunteers such as Paul, who's a music care volunteer. (Submitted by Hospice PEI)

David Blacquiere has been a volunteer for three years with Hospice PEI, after retiring in 2011 after 47 years in the fire service.

"A lot of the male clients who come through hospice may feel more comfortable with a male volunteer," Blacquiere said.  "We bring maybe a different understanding of the situation that they're in."

Hospice volunteers often greet visitors here at the entrance to the Palliative Care Centre in Charlottetown. (Randy McAndrew/CBC)

Blacquiere spends much of his volunteer time doing home visits with hospice clients.

"What I'm finding is that what I'm doing is not only helping the individual but I'm helping the family," Blacquiere said.

"The family needs a break and I provide that break for them so I feel good about that."

'I go there and I listen'

Blacquiere said he tries to take his cues from the client about what they want to do.

"One particular client that I visited, he loved playing crib," Blacquiere said. "I've played crokinole with clients. I've sat at the bedside and just discussed things. I go there and I listen to them."

Christine Kleinsteuber has just started as volunteer co-ordinator for Hospice PEI. (Nancy Russell/CBC)

Blacquiere said he was initially concerned he wouldn't know how to deal with being with someone in palliative care.

"I was a little afraid," Blacquiere said. "What I found after I joined this group here was that they provide excellent training and there's ongoing training."

More men needed

Christine Kleinsteuber has just started as volunteer co-ordinator for Hospice PEI, after moving from B.C. where she recruited volunteers for 100 organizations in her community.

There, too, she struggled to attract male volunteers.

Kleinsteuber said the next training session for volunteers starts at the end of June and she's hoping to have more men signing up.

"Even a handful would be a huge help for us, but as many as we possibly can would be great." 

About the Author

Nancy Russell has been a reporter with CBC since 1987, in Whitehorse, Winnipeg, Toronto and Charlottetown. When not on the job, she spends her time on the water rowing, travelling to Kenya or walking her dog. Nancy.Russell@cbc.ca