Healthcare in the United States

Hospice work gives 'me great joy'

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 12 January, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 12 January, 2008, 12:00am

People share their volunteering experience

Hong Kong-born Louise Spurrier has been a volunteer at Bradbury Hospice in Sha Tin for 24 years. She's still going strong and says she has no plans to quit helping cancer patients.

Inspired by her late father, Mrs Spurrier was taught at an early age to give something back to the community.

Her father, Gerry Forsgate, the former head of Hong Kong and Kowloon Wharf and Godown, and chairman of the now-defunct Urban Council (from 1986-91), was a great humanitarian who actively participated in numerous community service activities.

She has been helping out at Bradbury Hospice almost every Friday since 1983, caring for terminally ill cancer patients. The hospice offers medical services, provides specialist hospice care and supports hospice education and research.

She became involved with Bradbury Hospice in the early days when it was established by the Society for the Promotion of Hospice Care. Her husband, Martin Spurrier, helped raise funds to build Bradbury, which overlooks the Sha Tin racecourse.

'My father set a tremendous example. All his life, before he died of cancer six years ago, he did a lot of community work and set a great example to us,' Mrs Spurrier said.

'It must have been in the early '80s when the head of the Keswick Foundation asked me whether I would be interested in working for the Society for the Promotion of Hospice Care, which was being set up. I said 'yeah' and I started doing the newsletters for a while. I wasn't so keen on that, so I trained to do counselling as I wanted to work directly with patients.

'It's very fulfilling for me. A lot of friends don't understand what I do. But it is something where I can make a real difference for someone.' Mrs Spurrier speaks fluent Cantonese - a massive advantage since most patients are Cantonese-speaking. There are 27 beds at Bradbury and it is always fully occupied.

A typical day at Bradbury would include exercises with the patients, talking or just 'being there' for a patient and his or her family. 'We bring the patients in and we sit them down. Sometimes, somebody would come in to play music. Sometimes they bring dogs in, too. Patients love to hold dogs. I think that's really great,' said the 53-year-old. 'I will definitely continue volunteering because I like it. It's great to see how responsive the patients are when they see you. It gives me great joy.'