It’s for love, not money, that Judy Davis visits hospice clients while her husband Charlie plays music for HHHS patients and residents and puts in time at the fish hatchery.
The pair are a lot like numerous Haliburton County volunteers. They came from the city and were looking for something to do as well as give back to the community.
They’ve been doing just that for about 15 years.
“You need something to do when you’ve been so busy,” says Charlie. “You can’t just stop.” J
Judy volunteers for the Haliburton Highlands Health Services (HHHS). Charlie also helps out with HHHS, playing music at the hospitals or long-term care homes. He also does hours for the Haliburton Highlands Outdoors Association’s fish hatchery.
Judy is originally from the UK. She came to Canada in 1979. Charlie is a Dubliner by birth, leaving Ireland in the early 70’s. The couple lived and worked in Mississauga and then Brooklin. Judy was an executive assistant with a mapping company while Charlie worked for Enbridge for 37 years.
“We came up here one day and loved the area and decided this is someplace we’d like to retire to,” said Judy during a chat at the Haliburton Hospital café last week. Charlie came first and Judy joined him permanently
four years later.
Charlie started volunteering right away at the hatchery and later was persuaded to play music for HHHS.
“I was a fly fisherman,” says Charlie of his volunteer gig of choice. “It was something I was interested in and I’ve learned a lot there.
“I think the stuff that we are doing at the fish hatchery is vital to bringing tourism to Haliburton. We are stocking the lakes for people to come fish here and spend money to keep our economy going.”
He also plays the harmonica during his hospital and long-term care visits and says patients relate to it as an instrument from their era. With a high percentage of Alzheimer’s patients, who may seem catatonic most of the day, Charlie said the music moves them. He is thrilled when he sees them tapping their feet and bobbing their heads.
“So, obviously, it means a lot when you go there and you see the reaction of those people to the music.”
For Judy, she says that deep down, she’s always wanted to be a nurse. She added that her 93-year-old mother is back in the UK. Her brother helps to care for her but she can’t help but feel a little guilty.
“I always kind of think when I’m doing something here, I’m giving back to somebody doing something there.”
Judy visits with clients who are at, or near, end of life. She says sometimes clients feel as if they are taking her
time but “I do this because I choose to do this.” She said she has experienced death and end-of-life scenarios and “it’s having that empathy for other families and wanting to help them go through that.”
She said a lot of people have asked her: how she can sit with someone when they’re dying?
“But what you have to remember is, it’s not my mother, father, brother, sister. I’ve got a little bit of space. It’s very different. Somebody else will be better at it when it’s my mother or father.”
The couple said when it comes to volunteering, they get as much or more back than they give.
“I think it’s a win-win to be honest,” says Judy.
She said being one of the poorest counties in Ontario means there is a need for volunteers as well as donating money.
“I think Haliburton is fantastic because it really is a community. It’s got the most amazing people. They just keep giving and it never ceases to amaze me. It really makes you want to do your bit, too, because you’ve seen that wonderful community spirit.”
Charlie advises would-be volunteers to look for something that piques their interest. His love of fishing and music makes his volunteerism a natural fit.
“It is rewarding, when you find the right fit, and it might take you a couple of tries,” Judy agrees.