Artist Jeffrey Kelson counts himself lucky, having survived not just one but three heart attacks.
Now he is giving back to the people who got him through the difficult times when he was recovering in hospital. The Melbourne-based artist teaches portrait painting and has had a number of exhibitions in Victoria, including exhibitions of Holocaust survivors at the Jewish Holocaust Centre in 2016 and 2017.
His latest exhibition features the portraits of 18 volunteers from Cabrini. He says the volunteers are a welcome comfort to patients in their time of need.
“I have been a patient at Cabrini many times myself and have visited friends and family who have been treated there over the years,” Mr Kelson said.
“The volunteers I have met have always brought a smile to my face. Sometimes when you have health issues the most comforting thing is seeing a friendly face who offers a kind or reassuring word when you need it most.”
Mr Kelson wanted to give back to the volunteers who supported him during his time in hospital so he offered to paint their portraits to mark National Volunteer Week.
“I thought this would be a way of recognising the wonderful work they do,” he said.
“I love what I do, and being able to paint people who are doing something you respect and appreciate is incredibly powerful.”
During National Volunteer Week, Mr Kelson’s volunteer portraits will be on display at Cabrini Malvern. Mr Kelson said he hopes the exhibition will encourage more people to become volunteers.
“Hearing the stories of these volunteers has inspired me to become a volunteer myself and I hope other people will be encouraged to volunteer their time,” he said.
“I hope people visiting the hospital during National Volunteer Week will stop and take a look at the portraits. There are some amazing volunteers at Cabrini and hopefully this exhibition draws people in and gets people thinking about the great work they do in the hospital.”
Volunteer Graham Hoy said he’d had a fortunate life and received much kindness from others, which inspired him to become a volunteer to give something back.
“On the days I volunteer, I know I have done something very worthwhile that day,” Mr Hoy said.
“Getting to spend time with patients before or after surgery is a privilege. You get to hear their stories and exchange tales but most of all it is about spending time with them and making them feel at ease. I enjoy their company and I think I get as much out of it as they do.”
Volunteer Robyn Taylor said volunteering was rewarding and added meaning to her life.
“I’ve gained a sense of self-worth, providing non-medical support to vulnerable patients,” Ms Taylor said. “I love volunteering and am proud to be part of the Cabrini team. It is good to be able to give back to your local community. I love the hospital’s ethos and philosophy and am happy to be able to contribute to such a wonderful organisation.”
Volunteer Deb Haskin said volunteering gave her a sense of purpose.
“I offer to take people to their destination and I immediately see their stress disappear,” Ms Haskin said.
“I love working with my fellow volunteers who are all very caring.”
Cabrini Volunteer Services Manager Pamela Wood said volunteers provided much-needed support to patients during their treatment.
“Our volunteers contribute a great deal to the organisation and are incredibly valued by both our staff and patients. They bring the light of the outside world in, and are always there to listen and support our patients in their time of need,” Ms Wood said. “Amidst the clinical setting, our volunteers provide a welcome distraction.”
Cabrini has more than 300 volunteers, who assist hospital staff in various capacities. Anyone between the ages of 18 and 82 who would like to become a Cabrini volunteer is invited to email firstname.lastname@example.org to register their interest.
The portraits will be on display from 22-29 May at Cabrini Malvern, 183 Wattletree Road in Malvern.