Volunteering Adventures in Northumberland
By our Anonymous Blogger
Whilst at our recent Volunteering Fair during Volunteers’ Week in June a colleague met with David, who was there to represent MacMillan - Cancer Support. David said he would be interested in talking to me about his role, in the hope that sharing his experience may encourage others to volunteer.
David explained he came from a business background and had looked forward to retirement, but within 6 weeks of his newly found freedom he found himself very bored indeed. He thought about some kind of volunteering and contacting Northumberland CVA. However a period of ill health caused him to back away from this idea for a while. Eventually though, and after a period of recovery, he came back to the idea and approached Northumberland CVA again and, from a list of charities looking for volunteer help he decided he might like to volunteer as a fund raiser for MacMillan.
He began by telephoning the regional manager and was asked to go in to discuss the role, face to face. David laughs when asked about his first impression of the role, saying that at the very first meeting he was literally thrown in at the deep end when he was invited to talk about fund raising at a public event.
Although David’s previous career involved public speaking, his volunteering has taught him to adapt what he is saying to a particular but varied audience. “You see everyone is touched by cancer, but most know only about the name (MacMillan) and the nurses, yet it’s much more than that…It’s about the identifying the need not only of the person who has been diagnosed with cancer but the broader family. A cancer diagnosis can turn any family upside down and Macmillan is there to help”.
David described an example of a lady with terminal cancer, who lost 9 and a half stone – so much weight in fact that none of her clothes fitted her. MacMillan stepped in to provide her with a whole new wardrobe so she could continue as normal with her life. “You see MacMillan is always looking at ways to get help, to where it’s needed the most. We employ many other medical professionals such as dieticians, physiotherapists and occupational therapists, as well as benefits rights specialists who are not necessarily accessible or available when they’re needed most.”
Although David said he had no initial expectations of the volunteer role, he now realises just how little he did know and smiles saying, “I’ve learnt I’m allowed to say no!”
David’s role currently includes representing Macmillan at fund raising events, giving talks to local groups and societies, assisting with street collections, collecting Macmillan Charity Boxes from pubs and businesses and banking the donations. He says he and his fellow volunteers have a lot of fun. “We have a laugh and meet some fascinating people! Just recently we were at Hexham races and had some ‘good crack’ with the people there.” He describes his colleagues as “very friendly; like family!”
When asked whether he felt he’d developed through volunteering, either in relation to his skills or as a person, David explained he had sharpened his communication skills, although he says “I continue to be as outgoing and as manic as ever!!”
He also feels he has developed some new skills and now has a deeper level of empathy – an example of which is: “when I visited a couple in their 80’s, who had recently lost their only son to cancer, to collect their donation to MacMillan. Their grief and loss really touched me”.
David receives regular support and feedback. He is in regular touch with his 3 separate area managers. He has some autonomy in his role and loves travelling, which is just as well, as he travels a lot between Northumberland, Newcastle, North Shields, the Tyne area, and has even gone as far down as Sunderland! (Mileage paid, of course!) David explained that for some strange reason he also appears much busier in the winter, but overall he enjoys the flexibility of the hours and could work anywhere from 0-3 times per week.
Finally, when asked what THE most positive thing had been about volunteering David appeared stuck for words but, after a moment of reflection said, “That’s a hard question, but I think it has given my life some purpose… It’s about being part of something worthwhile!”
What a lovely emotive description of one individual’s freely given time and help for others! I would think this statement also sums up the whole volunteering experience for many people!!