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Since Amber Wang was a child, colouring pencils, pens and paper have always been her best friends.
Growing up, she started looking for ways of sharing her hobby with other people and maybe even opportunities to help them with her art.
Now at age 20, Amber has been volunteering weekly with the Art and Music program at Toronto General Hospital (TG) for the past two years. She draws for patients and with patients at the Peter Munk Cardiac Centre in a therapy that helps them express their feelings, as well as get their minds off of their condition or treatment plan for a moment.
National Volunteer WeekApril 15-21, 2018
Everyone is invited to take some time to recognize the volunteers in UHN departments, clinics, units, waiting rooms and at information desks.
"Patients here are surrounded by a great care team and structure, but sometimes the doctors, nurses, medication, and exams can be overwhelming," Amber says.
"Art allows them to express their feelings in this abstract way and it is quite unique."
A pharmacology and toxicology student at University of Toronto, Amber never had any formal training in drawing. However, she did show an early artistic talent that comes to her naturally.
Amber believes drawing is the easiest form of art and therefore a good fit for patients who can't leave the hospital.
"Drawing is easy, it's fun and free. If you think about it, drawing is the first artistic experience for many of us as children. It limits you way less than writing or even speaking because it plays with your imagination."
Usually, Amber draws for patients by request and they help her with the colouring. It's a great way to start a conversation that has nothing to do with medicine.
She says the most common requests are for drawings of children or beloved pets. But every once in a while she gets unique ideas. Amber recalls a patient that asked her to draw a zebra and a giraffe.
"I guess she really liked patterned animals. She told me her whole bathroom was zebra themed and I actually found that very cool."
Amber is one of hundreds of volunteers giving their time and dedication to provide the best patient care at TG. For National Volunteer Week (April 15-21), she encourages everyone to consider volunteering some hours to a cause they believe in.
"Volunteering is all about helping other people and that is wonderful, but at the same time you're going to get a lot in return," she says.
"Every time I get back from an afternoon of drawing sessions I feel more open-minded because I get to meet all these interesting people and listen to their stories. I feel that I become more humbled every time I meet a new patient."