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Empowering Serbian people in need of palliative care

Empowering Serbian people in need of Palliative Care” enables Serbian speaking volunteers to provide social support, referral and information to individuals with a life-limiting illness and their families living in the south east metropolitan region.

The project was initiated by the Serbian Community Association of Australia (SCAA) in collaboration with Palliative Care Victoria (PCV) in January 2019 and is managed by Marina Celebic and Volunteer Coordinator, Biljana Trikovic.

Monthly training sessions commenced in June 2019 with the first seven volunteers.  As one of these participants commented: “It is very important for me to get together with other volunteers and professionals to share our experiences and learn from one another”.

Each trainee received a Training Manual, developed in the Serbian language (and based on the PCV Volunteer Training Resource Kit). The concept of palliative care is not well known in the Serbian Community. It was necessary to prepare information and explain it in a manner that allows the readers to comprehend the content.

The SCAA Project has worked intensively with local community groups across the region. Through these meetings, the project has reached over 200 community members, who have been informed of SCAA’s readiness to assist in supporting people with chronic and terminal illness. Several referrals have resulted from these links and also from residential aged care facilities.

All of the volunteers to date have noticed positive changes in the demeanour of the clients, which has been evidenced by the clients’ smiles when they see the volunteers, and in the clients’ delight when a volunteer takes them out for a walk. It has been further reflected in the clients’ calm and relaxed nature after volunteer contact and in their happiness singing or listening to music together.

The volunteers report that regular visits are key to seeing improvements in the client’s life, as the consistency of the visits allows for a bond and a deep understanding and trust to be established.

For their July training session, the volunteers were joined by Palliative Care South East staff member, David Cox and volunteer, Glenyse Duck, who shared their experience and knowledge.  One of the attending volunteers commented, “It is important to know these services are free but that some costs might be involved. I enjoyed hearing about Glenyse’s experience and the discussion about good volunteering practice.”

David reinforces the value of such an exchange: “We learnt a couple of things too and feel the relationship is worth continuing. You have a very interested and passionate group and I’m sure they will do well in supporting palliative care clients and hopefully can expand into seeing people in their own homes as well. “

The project is planning to further strengthen its connection with Palliative Care South East (PCSE) providing an opportunity for the project and its volunteers to receive further information and resources as well as referrals from PCSE.

Services will also be promoted to the wider Serbian community in order to recruit more volunteers and seek new referrals from the community.

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