Giving back to Rānui House with the gift of time

Kate spent 323 nights at Rānui House. She’s now back at the House, but this time on her terms.

“I’ve jumped the counter!” she says.

Kate Wilwert has joined Rānui House as a volunteer, helping with anything that’s required – except baking.

“I love baking for myself but I don’t want to risk burning the bikkies when others have to eat them!”

Kate says being back at the House as a volunteer is good for her head and her heart.

“It’s got me away from home and doing something that doesn’t revolve around looking after Mike, which is what I’ve been doing for the last 18 months.”

It’s been a long, tough journey for Kate and husband Mike. He was initially admitted to Christchurch Hospital with kidney failure but a few days later was diagnosed with myeloma, a type of cancer of the blood. That was the beginning of their ten and a half month stay at Rānui House.

“While we were at Rānui House I became aware of the number of volunteers involved in all aspects of life at the House. They, along with the staff at the House, become your family and they really helped us through the most difficult times. I always had it in the back of my mind that if I could give back, I would. I knew it would really soothe my soul,” Kate says.

After being discharged from Christchurch Hospital in October 2023, Kate and Mike made the decision to move from their home town of Methven to Rolleston. They wanted to be closer to the Hospital for Mike’s kidney dialysis, which is required three times a week. Once a week, after dropping Mike at his dialysis, Kate heads to Rānui House.

“I work for about five and a half hours doing anything from housekeeping to front of house, running errands or taking things to and from the hospital. It doesn’t worry me what I do, I just love knowing that I’m doing something to help.

“I’ve met a few of the residents since I’ve been volunteering and it’s lovely to interact with them. They are all on a journey. Sometimes they want to talk about what they’ve got going on or sometimes they just want to chat about where they’re from. It’s just lovely to be there for them. I really enjoy it.”

Meanwhile, Kate and Mike are enjoying their new community in Rolleston.

“We live in a village-like community with really welcoming neighbours. We’re making a concerted effort to enjoy the life we’re creating here.”

And that life is looking brighter as Mike’s health improves. Following a successful stem cell transplant in September last year his myeloma is in remission. Kate and Mike are hoping to be trained for home dialysis so soon he will be able to manage his kidney dialysis from home.

“That’s our next goal!” Kate says.

Kate and Mike are also both itching to get back to Methven to hit the slopes.

“We’re both ski instructors and have spent our lives chasing the winters. We didn’t get to ski last year due to Mike’s health, but we have our season’s passes all ready for this year. Those first few days up on the mountain this year will be pretty special.”

But Kate’s work at Rānui House will continue.  “I knew volunteering at Rānui House would really soothe my soul, and that’s exactly what it does. Rānui House and the people there did so much for us. This is my small way of giving back.”