Cuddling premature babies at the university hospital in Graz, Austria is just one of Renate Hoesele’s volunteer activities as she continues on the path to “share my time, my life” with others.
A former Magna colleague got Hoesele interested in helping others in August 2017, when she invited Hoesele to work in a soup kitchen in Vienna.
“It was the first time I ever spoke to a homeless person,” recalled Hoesele, the assistant to the director of sales, BPM & strategy at Magna Steyr Engineering. “I saw them on the street, but I never saw the human being behind these people. One man in the soup kitchen was nicely dressed. I asked, ‘Why are you here?’ He said he got divorced, lost his job and his health. It could happen to anybody. It changed my heart, my focus, and everything.”
Later, Hoesele collected approximately 350 euros from her Magna Steyr colleagues to sponsor lunch for 60 homeless people at the soup kitchen.
The experience in the soup kitchen prompted Hoesele to become what her Magna friends call a “volunteer extraordinaire.” She joined Austria’s ”Yellow Aunt” association, a group of women dressed in yellow blouses and white trousers who spend hours in hospital nurseries comforting babies with songs and cuddles.
“Friends of mine told me so many babies are alone in the hospital. So, I wrote an email to the hospital director and asked, ‘How can I help?’ Most of the women in the association are grandmas. I’m only 48 and the ‘baby’ of the group.”
A special baby Hoesele cares for is Kasean, who weighed 2.2 pounds at birth. His mother is unable to spend time with him, so Hoesele goes to the hospital after work on Fridays to spend three hours with the baby. She returns later in the weekend for another shift.
“I sing to him and he smiles a bit,” Hoesele said. “But most of the time, he’s sleeping. The nurses tell me he really enjoys our time together and needs it, especially for the body warmth.”
In addition to the nursery, Hoesele has spent time with cancer patients in the pediatric oncology unit of the hospital.
“At first I thought I don’t know if I can do this,” she said. “But most of the children are getting healthy. I found I was there more for the parents than the children. We went for coffee. I listened to their stories and their concerns. It’s so important to talk to somebody from the outside.”
In addition to volunteering with children and their families, Hoesele has also volunteered at a local nursing home, taking walks with the elderly and listening to their stories. Regardless of where she volunteers, Hoesele said she approaches every situation with “an open heart.”
The COVID-19 pandemic put a temporary halt to her volunteer activities, as Austria and much of Europe is in lockdown.
“After the lockdown, I will continue my work at the hospital for sure,” she said. “Kasean may not be there. But other babies will need some cuddling.”
After the lockdown, I will continue my work at the hospital for sure. Kasean may not be there but other babies will need some cuddling.