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Serenading the fish, enjoying life!

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Nino brings music, laughter and life with him when he spends time with his new friends at Anam Cara twice a week. His best mate is Mandy who says volunteering at the hospice has transformed her life after the death of her mother.

Nino

I do better when I come here to day hospice. I can bring a guitar and play music and sing. Sometimes I tell jokes, and I serenade the fish! In springtime, the fish fall in love, so I sit near the fish in the tank and I serenade them. In Italy I sang in a choir in a church. I also used to serenade the girls. You never stop laughing.

Last year the manager Tessa came to my place and asked if I wanted to come here to stay for a couple of nights. It was fantastic. Mandy brought me coffee and tea and she would make sure I was okay. I have sore legs and they’re weak because I have prostate cancer, so Mandy helped me to get into my pajamas, and to get into bed. Nice room. Warm. In the morning Mandy woke me up with a cup of coffee and she helped me to get dressed. They all treated me very well.

After that I started coming to day hospice once a week, but I enjoyed it so much I would come twice a week. Now the only time I miss it is when I have to see the specialist.

My wife Elena looks after me. Three times a week someone comes from the council to help me shower, which makes it a bit easier for us. My daughter Nadia is a nurse, so she does all the organization and the paperwork. My wife understands English well enough to answer their questions over the phone, but it’s too hard on paper; too many papers, and too complicated.

I love coming here. As soon as I arrive here, Mandy brings me orange juice. And after lunch she brings me a black coffee. She’s very good to me. She’s my best mate. And Tessa is good to me too. I can ask for anything and she’ll get it for me.

We all get on well here. I was miserable at home and here I am happy because I’ve found all these new friends.

I come here and I feel good. Someone said I bring life here, because I sing. That’s who I am. We make things, and play games too. It’s good to smile and be happy.

I can’t wait for Tuesdays and Thursdays. I don’t have to think about it, but there is always something to do, and it’s always something different. I don’t think about my troubles or being sick. When I come here, it’s like a new life for me. I wish it were three times a week. It’s like paradise here.

Mandy

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I remember Nino’s smile the first time I met him. He loves a chat. He’s always ready with a smile, and is very friendly. He comes here twice a week when we have day hospice. Everyone loves him. He’s very special.

I love seeing how happy the guests are when they’re here, and being able to help them. Sometimes it’s just a matter of sitting with them. To me it’s a privilege to be here and to help. I love it so much.

The hospice has been a lifesaver for me. We live just down the road. One day my sister and I brought mum down to have a look, and she loved the place. We knew straight away that this place was special and mum said she would be willing to ‘give it a go’.

The first time mum stayed for a few days was to give us a bit of a break. Then mum went to day hospice. She loved it. She said it was homely and friendly; she used to call it ’The Windsor on Yarra Street’. It’s better than that, because it is full of love and care. It’s a beautiful place.

While mum was coming to day hospice, the managers Sue and Tessa asked me to help out. I really enjoyed it and gradually learnt different things. When mum did die, I wasn’t really quite sure what I wanted to do. Then Tessa talked me into coming here twice a week. It was the best thing I ever did. I just love it.

I didn’t have any self-confidence before I started here. I found it hard to speak with other people and I couldn’t look them in the eye. Tessa has taught me a lot over the last few years, I did some training and that’s given me a lot of confidence away from here as well. I now walk with my head up when I’m walking down the street. I’ve learnt that it is okay to say what I think, and to talk to other people.

It’s given me another purpose. I really look forward to the two days of day hospice, and doing a bit of respite with the beautiful Nino.

The guests can come and they can just be themselves, and the focus isn’t on their illnesses. They can come here and have a bit of fun, or be a bit quiet, or even be a bit sad. It’s not like being in a hospital; it’s more like a home.

It can be challenging for me when the health of a guest deteriorates. It can be heart wrenching at times, but it can be beautiful too. I don’t believe you can care too much, as long as you keep it in perspective. There are people here I can talk to if I need to. It can be a real privilege to do this work. I get a lot out of it. It’s been great.

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