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clock icon13 February 2024

Organisation Spotlight: Radio Lollipop - ‘’The Sweetest Medicine Of All”

Radio Lollipop is a shining example of how to incorporate joy, fun and connection into children’s lives during an inpatient hospital stay.

A smiling child in hospital with a volunteer, presenting cards and paper flowers they made together.

Story by Janine Duncan

Radio Lollipop is a shining example of how to incorporate joy, fun and connection into children’s lives during an inpatient hospital stay.

Originating in the United Kingdom in the late 1970’s, the programme was so successful that it quickly expanded to Australia, Europe, America, South Africa and New Zealand. Starship Hospital has served as the main base since 1992, with satellite stations eventually established at hospitals in the Auckland region, Christchurch and in 2009, Whangarei.

Well regarded by health professionals, Radio Lollipop provides children of all ages the opportunity and choice to engage with a volunteer on a one to one basis though age appropriate play and activities in accordance with their needs and desires.

Hospital is generally an environment associated with fear and uncertainty. Through introducing fun familiar activities and connection with someone not associated with their clinical care, the sessions aim to provide a form of relief and distraction from any pain or discomfort a child may be experiencing. Angela Mackie (Radio Lollipop Director and long term volunteer) strongly believes the programme impacts on a child’s personal wellbeing and potentially aids faster recovery in the short term.

A live broadcast radio station from Christchurch is incorporated into the programme to enhance fun, connection and engagement. Children have the opportunity to listen in, contribute to on air discussions, enter competitions and request songs.

As the programme is not well known in the community, recruiting volunteers does prove challenging. Currently, the Whangarei team are urgently seeking additional members in order for the programme to operate five evenings a week.

An information day is being held March 21st and successful recruits are then required to undertake a training programme under the guidance and mentorship of an experienced volunteer. While it is not essential to have experience in childcare or education, it is vital that you have a love of children and passion for working with them.

Angela Mackie who has volunteered with Radio Lollipop for nearly nineteen years, considers the most rewarding aspects are seeing parents taking photos of their children engaging in activities; and hearing comments from former patients recalling the fun they experienced through Radio Lollipop. She states, “I honestly believe if you have a passion for kids, it may well be the best thing you ever do. Everything you put into Radio Lollipop, you will receive back ten-fold. It is truly the most rewarding thing I have ever done.”

Likewise, Emma Costello, a volunteer at Whangarei, was inspired to become part of the team due to her love of children and describes her volunteering experience as “just wonderful.” “For two hours a week I am able to make all these kids happy, the children are so excited to see the activities on offer, and you can see the thanks in the eyes of the nurses, health care assistants and parents. We are the fun that walks into the room.”

If you have a passion for children of all ages and feel this role may be an ideal fit for you, you can find more information and refer yourself as a volunteer here.