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Volunteer couple love their work

Paul and May Davio have volunteered at RPA for more than 20 years.

SydneyConnect video: Volunteers vital to RPA Redevelopment

When May Palanisamy began writing to a new pen pal in the early 1970s, she had no idea it would lead to marriage and a new life in a new country. 

The nuns at her school in Malaysia were encouraging the girls to improve their English by writing to pen pals in Australia. 

May soon found herself writing to Paul Davio, a young Italian who had moved to Sydney for work. Friendship blossomed, then romance. In 1977 the couple were married and soon came two sons. 

The birth of their second son at Royal Prince Alfred Hospital in 1981 was the start of a long association with the hospital that continues today. 

“I’ve been working 25 years as a volunteer at RPA,” May says. 

A few years after she started, May encouraged Paul to join her and he has volunteered at the hospital for 23 years. 

May says she loves being able to help people negotiate what can be a stressful environment. 

“When patients come, I talk to them, I walk with them and take them to the place they are supposed to go,” she says. 

“That makes them a bit happy and that makes me very happy to see people like that.” 

May said the work of volunteers would be particularly important as work on the RPA redevelopment gathers pace this year. 

“Especially now it’s very important because they’re closing some of the streets,” she said. 

“A lot of patients, mothers, they don’t know where to go. So, we are there to guide them, to help them and to make it easy for them – especially pregnant mums, they are already under stress.” 

The couple volunteer together one day a week at RPA but May says she’d happily work more often if she lived a little closer to the hospital.  

“If I was living here, I’d do five days, if I was next door,” she says.