As soon as an urgent request came from the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Bridgetown, Barbados, seeking volunteers to assist its staff of caregivers, a group of Seventh-day Adventists signed up to help. The 600-bed hospital, which is the largest general hospital for the southern part of the island, put out the request through its clinical nutrition services for a volunteer mealtime assistance program that deals with crucial issues of food waste and ensures patients receive the nutrition they need during recovery.
Kerri Ann Best, a dietitian in clinical nutrition services at Queen Elizabeth Hospital and member of the Way to Calvary Seventh-day Adventist Church, said the program is important because it means one less task the nurses will have to perform so they can concentrate on their specialized tasks. “In the process, [the program] will help cut wastage because patients will have designated individuals to assist them,” Best said.
Dayle Haynes, community services director for the East Caribbean Conference of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, said 29 people from several Adventist churches in Bridgetown quickly signed up to volunteer. “We had nine volunteers who went through the training program and are already assisting at the hospital,” Haynes said. There are 20 who are currently going through the training and are mostly teens and young adult members. “Volunteers are taught how to feed patients and are given basic instructions on bedside care,” he said.
Haynes, who also joined the mealtime assistance program training, said, “We are very thankful to have partnered with the hospital to assist so many in vulnerable and needy circumstances. As a church we are happy to step up to the plate and make a difference.”
The response from the Adventist Church is important because it is a way to express solidarity with hospitals, healthcare workers, and members of the community, Haynes said.
Government leaders explained that with limited personnel in the health system, there is great need for assistance with feeding patients, Haynes said. “We understand that in the face of the enormity of the situation, this support is the proverbial drop in the bucket, but it’s a pivotal thing that is a delight for us to be doing at Queen Elizabeth Hospital.”
It is the first time that the church is involved in such a ministry, Haynes said. Volunteers will operate on a scheduled basis since the volunteer mealtime assistance program includes every day of the week.
Although the hospital had the program running since 2016, it stopped during the COVID-19 pandemic and was just restarted in May.
Answering the request was an opportunity to connect and give back to the community, Haynes said.
Judy Bourne, from Amazing Grace Seventh-day Adventist Church in Bridgetown, said she likes to help people and has been doing so for more than 13 years. She is the community services director of her church and was active in the church’s meals on wheels program before the pandemic hit. Her church then switched to preparing food boxes for needy community members. “I remember when my cousin was in the hospital during COVID and she had challenges, so this [Bedside Ministry] is another opportunity to assist others in need.” Bourne shared that there are five other members from her church who have expressed interest in the hospital program.
Patients have already shared how the volunteers’ presence has brightened their days, said Haynes. “Families expressed deep appreciation for the assistance and compassion shown to loved ones when they were most vulnerable,” he added.
Anthony Hall, president of the East Caribbean Conference, which oversees the work of the church in Barbados and Dominica, praised the dedication of members who answered the call to help others. “We are proud of members who are living out the principles of what it means to be a Christian. Thank you for seeing a need and filling it,” Hall said.
“The Adventist Church has been partnering with the community in the East Caribbean Conference on numerous projects and initiatives, including promoting a healthy lifestyle to benefit the population in general, but this was an opportunity to reach people in a time of need,” Hall said. “It is a testament to the transformative power of community involvement and the meaningful impact that can be achieved when hearts and hands unite.”
The volunteer program allows the opportunity for volunteers to pray and interact with the patients, Best said.
The next group to be trained will be teens and young adults, said Haynes. The program is open to anyone who wants to volunteer, and students can get community service credit from the program.
“We are committed to reflecting who God is, serving and offering the best for His children,” Haynes said. “Their presence brought a new ray of hope and comfort to the patients with their warm smiles, gentle words of encouragement, and attentive care, creating a nurturing environment that enhances the healing process for those in need.”