Mr James Chang is the director of the Taiwan Dream Makers Organisation, a group that helps patients who are nearing the end of their lives to achieve specific dreams before they die.
Mr Chang has been a hospice volunteer for about 14 years.
Previously, he was part of a Buddhist organisation which helped people to organise funerals for their loved ones.
He thought: “What we are doing here is helping people after they die. Surely there is something we can do for them before they are dead.”
He contacted a group which provided training for hospice volunteers and undertook a three month volunteer training course.
Before he retired from his ‘day job’, Mr Chang spent about two three-hour sessions per week being with patients and, as he says, taking care of them “from head to toe, with the mind included.” After his retirement, he was able to dedicate himself to hospice volunteering almost every day.
At the beginning, says Mr Chang, he didn’t know a lot about hospice care, and didn’t gather the true meaning of hospice volunteering. He spent his time shadowing other volunteers, accompanying them when they visited patients.
As he gained more knowledge, he told himself that more needed to be done for patients and family members. The more he learned, the more he did.
He became deeply involved in his hospice volunteer job and, as he became more involved, he also played an important role in promoting hospice care.
As part of this, Mr Chang visits different groups and associations to tell them about hospice care, attending conferences or communication activities to give a speech, to host a stand promoting hospice care and hospice volunteering, or holding activities to promote hospice care.
Mr Chang speaks at health care conferences, but also at business conferences or sports camps.
He has also had the chance to share his experience of hospice volunteering with people in different communities, or at schools.
“We will do all we can to promote hospice,” says Mr Chang.
For Mr Chang, the most important thing is that, although there are many different associations or groups in Taiwan who are working on issues related to hospice and palliative care, as far as he knows there is no central group for hospice volunteers.
He and his colleagues are working to unite people from different hospitals and foundations to form a group to represent all hospice volunteers in Taiwan.
I ask Mr Chang what his hope is for hospice and palliative care in Taiwan. He notes in response that a source of pride for the country is its ranking on the Economist Quality of Death Index as 14th in the world and first in Asia.
However, he believes that all the groups who provide hospice services – including doctors, nurses, volunteers and allied health professionals – need to do more to join international activities and learn as much as they can from others to improve hospice and palliative care in Taiwan.