It took 16 years after her husband’s death before Donna McKee was ready to step back into the waiting room at the QEII’s Cancer Centre.

Donna decided three years ago that it was time to give back. She had never forgotten the kindness and support she received from volunteers when she had to make the long drive to the QEII’s VG site from the Annapolis Valley, with her two young daughters to take her husband to radiation and chemotherapy treatments.

“Magically there would be colouring books for the kids or volunteers to mind the kids for a bit if I had to talk to a doctor,” says Donna. “I’ll be forever grateful for that.”

Volunteering every Monday morning, Donna makes tea and offers cookies to patients and their families in the centre’s waiting room, knowing she is helping some of them in the same way she was helped when losing her husband to cancer.

Donna is just one of more than 1,200 volunteers at the QEII who lend their talents and skills in about 230 programs, which range from meal assistance to palliative care to recreation therapy. The volunteers, who include everyone from high school students to retirees, make up one of the largest groups of healthcare volunteers in Nova Scotia. 

“We consider them as members of our healthcare team,” says Michele McDonald, manager of Volunteer Services.

Working alongside healthcare staff, the volunteers assist in providing programs and services to help improve patient care, reduce stress for family members and give some extra attention and comfort where they can.

“A lot of people want to volunteer just to give back to their community and we’re the beneficiaries,” says Michele. “We’re very fortunate to have such a large, dedicated group of volunteers and we alwayswelcome people to explore volunteering and what we have to offer. Hopefully we can find a good fit for them.”

With her easy smile and friendly personality, it’s easy to see why patients warm to Elizabeth McDougall-Salchert. Having volunteered for 16 years at the QEII in a variety of programs, Elizabeth isn’t a stranger to the various programs Volunteer Services has to offer. More recently, Elizabeth has been involved in the QEII’s Geriatric Day Hospital’s hospitality program, as well as the recreational activities program through Veterans Services.

“I’m very optimistic about everything. I like to try to pass on some of that positivity to people that are down,” Elizabeth says. “I always find it very rewarding. I get more out of it than I give.”

To find out more about volunteering, please visit: explore volunteer opportunities throughout Capital Health.

Why volunteer?

Don’t take our word for the invalubable contribution, not to mention the personal fun, volunteering can be...take it from these QEII volunteers:

“I wanted to work with patients and make their day better and in turn make my day better. It’s really rewarding,” says Sarah Bolivar, a 27-year-old graduate student, who once a week helps veterans at Camp Hill Veterans Memorial get their breakfast. “I get a lot of smiles out of them. I really like that.”


“I think everyone should give back to their community one way or the other,” says Nancy Fournier, a grandmother of eight who has been helping at the QEII for 19 years. You can find Nancy inside the gift shop at the Victoria General site, where she lends an ear to patients who want to talk or helps find the perfect pair of warm socks to keep someone warm.


“Doing this really fills my life in a way that I needed. Sometimes I feel selfish. I feel so good when I go home,” says Donna McKee, who volunteers with recreation activities and with Jasper, her greyhound dog, in the therapy dog program in the Transitional Care Unit at the VG.

“I just love going in. You always say you wish you could do something and you can. That feels good.”

“It makes me very happy when I see a smile on the elderly people’s faces,” says Said Ayyash, a former soccer player and coach in Jerusalem, who helps with the hospitality program in the Emergency Department. “When I come here I shut off my phone. This is my pleasure.”