Could you help be a volunteer?

Local Macmillan volunteers David Johnston from Bushmills and Elizabeth Gaston from Portstewart are pictured in the Macmillan Information and Support Area at Causeway Hospital.
Local Macmillan volunteers David Johnston from Bushmills and Elizabeth Gaston from Portstewart are pictured in the Macmillan Information and Support Area at Causeway Hospital.

Did you know that Douglas Macmillan, founder of Macmillan Cancer Support was also a volunteer?

Well, Douglas’ legacy lives on in the work of the charity, together with an invaluable network of many other volunteers.

In Coleraine, the Macmillan Information Area situated in Causeway Hospital is manned by a team who dedicate their time, skills and energy to help improve the lives of local people affected by cancer.

Norma Adams, Macmillan Information and Support Manager at Causeway Hospital said: “I have a fantastic team of six volunteers who freely give their time to support people affected by cancer and their families. People who call at the Macmillan Information Area, or meet the volunteers at our community events tell me they really appreciate the help and support they receive. A diagnosis of cancer can be a shock, but our Macmillan volunteers are here to help people and their families deal with the devastating news.”

The Macmillan Information Area in Causeway Hospital opened in 2015. It is located just inside the front door of Causeway Hospital and provides a friendly environment for patients, carers and anyone affected by cancer to access good quality, comprehensive information and support. There is a wide range of Macmillan booklets available, dealing with everything from managing symptoms and the emotional impact of cancer, to advice on benefits, work and financial support. There is also information on local support services such as counselling, family support and complementary therapies. No appointment is necessary and people can drop in for a chat, to have their questions answered, and to pick up useful booklets.

Elizabeth Gaston from Portstewart has been a Macmillan volunteer for around two years at the Macmillan Information Area explained: “After I retired, I felt that I wanted to do something which would be of help to others,” she explains. “I came from a nursing background and knew of the great work that Macmillan does and thought that if I could support people through their journey with cancer, not only the person living with cancer, but carers too, it would be worthwhile and very fulfilling.

“I think it is invaluable to listen as some people may find it easier to talk to someone outside their family about what they are going through in confidence. I don’t give advice but I will listen and signpost them to services that may be a help to them.

“For someone considering volunteering with Macmillan I would say that it is very worthwhile to give a few hours each week to offer support to someone during their cancer journey.

“Everyone at some stage in their life will encounter a family member or friend who has a diagnosis of cancer and would value the support that Macmillan provides. By being a volunteer, you really get so much back from helping others.”

David Johnston from Bushmills is another dedicated Macmillan volunteer who has been involved for two years. He continued: “I really enjoy volunteering in the Macmillan Information Area at Causeway Hospital,” explains David. “Macmillan offers great training opportunities for volunteers, training which many of their professional staff undertake and it does equip you and give you the confidence to speak knowledgeably about services and support.”

As well as the day to day volunteering tasks that David carries out which include being responsible for the Macmillan information stands in some of the wards in the hospital, he also attends various health and wellbeing events.

He added: “I really enjoy being a part of these events as it gives me the opportunity to meet people and provide support to those who have been affected by cancer. They are usually disease specific, e.g. breast cancer, haematology or bowel cancer, and allow a range of healthcare professionals to provide presentations on different aspects of care such as dietary advice, fatigue management, psychological support and exercise to name but a few. Macmillan volunteers usually attend with information stands to provide support to those affected by cancer as well as listen to the seminars.”

David says that his role is extremely rewarding and he particularly enjoys knowing that volunteering in his own area means that he is directly helping his own community. So what would he say to someone who is considering volunteering for Macmillan?

“Don’t feel you are not qualified to do it, there are lots of training opportunities for Macmillan volunteers and the training is high quality. Whilst you might be physically on your own in the service area, there is always someone on the other end of the phone if you require further advice or support,” he concluded.

“You don’t require a healthcare background to volunteer for Macmillan but what you do need is patience, tact and diplomacy and to be a good listener.”

If you would like to volunteer at the Macmillan Information Area in the Causeway Hospital contact Norma Adams via telephone on 028 9442 4000 ext 333079 or email Norma.Adams@northerntrust.hscni.net