Brigitte Van Marcke contracted polio as a child and spent several years in hospitals, experiences that made her acutely conscious of patient needs. Currently, Van Marcke dedicates approximately 45 hours per week to nurturing babies in the newborn nursery at Ben Taub General Hospital in Houston. Ben Taub serves an inordinate number of indigent clients from all over the world. Van Marcke's ultimate achievement is that she was the catalyst for what is now a growing, thriving volunteer program in the newborn nursery at Ben Taub Hospital.
Six weeks after moving to Houston, Van Marcke began her volunteer career in Ben Taub's newborn nursery. She now contributes to a vast array of activities within that setting. She brings love to every child born in the hospital (approximately 250 per month). She provides them with the warmth and love that current research shows can significantly affect a child's ability to bond in early childhood.
In addition to the 18 hours per week that she spends in the hospital, she spends an average of 37 hours per week at home sewing baby hats (400 per month) for every baby born at Ben Taub. If a newborn is going directly to Children's Protective Service, she provides them with a receiving blanket, socks, pajamas, and a pacifier. For these children, Van Marcke is like a one-woman social service team who ensures that each child has the necessary provisions.
The approach that Van Marcke takes as a volunteer is innovative in that she nurtures, feeds, and loves the newborn in the hope that young, first-time parents will observe and mimic her behavior. She has also initiated a volunteer mentor program within the newborn nursery with the goal of securing volunteers for every feeding all week. She mobilizes additional manpower by actively recruiting and mentoring new volunteers. Her goal is in line with that of the hospital's Volunteer Department—to make the volunteer program within the newborn nursery one of the premiere volunteer programs in the city. With a volunteer career that spans two years and more than 2,500 hours of community service, there is little doubt that Brigitte Van Marcke will help Ben Taub General Hospital achieve this goal.