My name is Ginny Buckwalter, and I was born in the city of Toronto on the north shore of Lake Ontario. For 25 years, I was a caseworker at a residential maternity home for single pregnant women, where I became a lay ‘doula’, a female helper (maidservant) or a midwife assistant in various pre and postnatal medical settings.
My husband Herb and I learned about Nazareth Village through the Mennonite church mission board. In 2005 as a sabbatical placement, we volunteered at Nazareth Village. In 2006, we began volunteering at Nazareth Hospital due to Herb’s paramedic career and my maternal experience. We transitioned into the SERVE Volunteer Program in 2010. With the ongoing support of Christine Farah, Majdoleen Nawatha and the Administration, we have been welcomed back as volunteers ever since then. Herb has participated in four fundraising bike rides during this time.
Volunteering in the Newborn Nursery, where babies are cared for in between being in their mother’s rooms, consists of folding and storing clean baby clothing and linens, bottle feeding newborn infants, diaper changing, dressing babies for discharge, assisting nurses during doctor’s rounds and admissions from the Labour and Delivery Ward, taking babies to the X-Ray department, taking/retrieving blood specimens to the Lab and generally meeting the needs of newborn infants.
The Maternity Ward patients all share in the buffet-style meals communally in the central dining room together. Patient rooms become celebrations shared with generations of family bringing in streamers of balloons, floral arrangements, thermoses of Arabic coffee and congratulatory baklava (sweets) shared with the staff. While volunteering, my definition of hospitality has been deeply enriched. In the hospital community and the city of Nazareth, food is always a form of warmly welcoming others, especially strangers and newcomers, of giving them a place at your table before serving yourself.
In the Nursery year after year, I have observed newborns diagnosed with distressful complications at birth as their parents received consultation, thorough explanations and reassurances from a team of specialists, obstetricians and nurses in an unbelievable, deeply caring, sensitive manner. Without exception – at a level I have never seen before. The equality and respect with which the medical professionals relate to their patients is a testimony to Nazareth Hospital’s “light on the hill”.
“Our first task in approaching
Is to take off our shoes
For the place we are
Approaching is holy
Else we may find ourselves
Treading on another’s dream
More serious still
We may forget…
That God was there
Before we arrived. (Author unknown.)”
In closing, as Shaun Newton said to me in the chapel a few weeks ago, “We May Leave Nazareth, but Nazareth will never leave us.” Volunteering at Nazareth Hospital has indeed been a humbling privilege and an experience I will always be profoundly grateful for. The honourable hospital staff who give and have given of themselves throughout history deeply bless all those whom they serve.