THE international role Radio Lollipop has in connecting with and entertaining sick children and their families in hospital is “a mistake”, according to founder Hedley Finn.
The volunteer-led organisation first launched in the United Kingdom 39 years ago as a radio station to connect children in 36 separate wards within Mr Finn’s local hospital, Queen Mary’s in Surrey.
While visiting Radio Lollipop’s newest station at Perth Children’s Hospital (PCH), Mr Finn said he never envisaged that the organisation would operate from hundreds of hospitals in five countries, as it does today.
“This is a mistake; we were only ever doing one Radio Lollipop, we were literally doing it at our local children’s hospital,” he said.
“We established one and what we’ve done is reacted to demand because children’s hospitals contact us wanting Radio Lollipop.”
Australia was the first country outside the UK to establish Radio Lollipop, which launched at Princess Margaret Hospital in 1985 before moving to its new home this year at PCH.
A volunteer himself, Mr Finn visits all new stations and while in Perth praised the new state-of-the-art station and its volunteers whose job it is to help children to normalise in a hospital setting.
“For children, hospitals that do have access to Radio Lollipop and the facilities we bring helps them to normalise, it helps psycho social development, and helps them to understand why they’re in hospital, while actually being children again,” he said.
“We use the radio as a tool to engage the children and once we’ve done that we can do proper stuff that makes them feel good, important and special, and they become the focus of attention as opposed to part of a hospital process.
“It’s about bringing the child to the front, it’s about making the child feel important, being engaged, and us being focused on the child from the point of them being an individual, not a part of a wider system.”
With about 1800 volunteers worldwide and the equivalent of one-and-a-half paid staff members in total, Mr Finn said without its “extraordinary volunteers” Radio Lollipop wouldn’t exist.