On Tuesday 7th August, Fresh Hope celebrated 18 volunteers graduating as “Pastoral Carers” from the inaugural Spiritual Care Series. The evening was well attended by representatives from Fresh Hope Care and Fresh Hope Mission & Ministry, including board members, managers, chaplains and staff.

The graduates have all attended 2 hour training sessions over 9 weeks during May and June and have then undertaken supervised visits with residents, overseen by a chaplain for a minimum of 4 sessions. Now that the course participants have graduated, they will be allocated residents to visit regularly during the month by themselves, supported by a weekly debrief with their supervising chaplain and sharing/up-skilling at a monthly lunch with fellow volunteers.

Natalie Cook, the Director of Fresh Hope Care, declared the program a tremendous success and expressed her appreciation to the volunteers for their time and commitment. The Fresh Hope Care Board Chair, Mr Chris Powell, shared how he was looking forward to the significant increase in capacity to provide pastoral care to residents and consumers in Fresh Hope Care, that the volunteers would bring.

The highlight of the evening was hearing from the graduates themselves. One of the graduates shared in her speech:

“I am very grateful to have been part of this Pastoral Care Course. So, a huge thank you to Fresh Hope for the opportunity and for the fabulous in-depth program. This course has deepened what is a huge part of who I am and what God has laid on my heart. But I believe there is more to just having a heart for others. To value another person and come alongside them, and do it well, we need to learn skills of awareness, acceptance, listening, and compassion. This course has been a wonderful resource with references from knowledgeable people who give great insight in dealing with real life issues as well as Biblical wisdom.

Whilst I’m not keen on role plays, it was a great experience to test new skills and to discuss issues with my classmates. The videos were extremely helpful as Lee Hatcher, Professor John Swinton and the team interacted and discussed each subject. Having the pre-work reading was valuable to prepare me for each section and gave me time to reflect. The section on Grief and Loss was exceptionally good and there were lots of tears, but it allowed me to unlock deep wounds that I have struggled with for a long time. The section on Boundaries is valuable in maintaining self-care and a positive outlook. Having a chaplain to mentor me is very comforting, knowing I am not alone and have someone to talk things through, to teach and encourage me. So, on reflection, this course has not only given me the resources to work towards healing for myself but has given me the strength and passion to continue to seek a more intimate relationship with God and the skills to value and gently care for His people with love and compassion.”

The Volunteer Pastoral Care program is a three-way partnership between Fresh Hope Care, Fresh Hope Mission & Ministry and local churches. If you would like to learn more about the Volunteer Pastoral Care program, please contact Fresh Hope Engage staff on (02) 8719 2600.