Volunteer profiles

Eileen

1. Tell us a little about yourself

My name is Eileen Black and I have lived in Antrim for 42 years. I am married and have 3 grown up sons and when I retired from the Civil Service in 2010 after 20 years sitting behind a desk I promised myself never to work in an office again. So on retiring I joined a local walking club, I revamped my garden and my little Jack Russell Finn got walked and walked and…!

2. What motivated you to get involved in volunteering?

October 2011 was my first encounter with the Macmillan Unit at Antrim Hospital to visit a patient who was a friend of mine. To experience such dedication from the staff there and such peaceful surroundings for the patients and their families I just felt that I had to give some time to support people living with cancer.
I enquired how to become a volunteer and after completing the registration process I attended training offered to volunteers which helped to gain an insight into cancer and its various treatments. I was allocated a role in Laurel House, just next door to the Macmillan Unit where I had been visiting my friend.

3. Where do you volunteer and what does your role involve?

I volunteer one morning per week at Laurel House at Antrim Area Hospital which is an Outpatients’ Unit where people undergo cancer treatment. My role as a volunteer involves supporting the patients at the Haematology clinic every Thursday morning. When I say supporting basically I mean I chat to them! In a waiting room full of people I just have a look around and if someone is alone I will go and sit with them. It may be that they are worried or apprehensive and I sit and they talk and I listen. Maybe they are worried about being out of work and I direct them to the appropriate person regarding benefits advice. Sometimes it’s a person who has access difficulties so I will get them a cup of tea.

4. What are some of the challenges of your role and what support and training is available?

Each Thursday brings a new challenge as people’s needs differ. If I can’t help I have the support of the nursing staff and clerical staff in Laurel House and the Macmillan Support and Information Manager and Volunteer Coordinator – all of whom have made me very welcome and are always ready to help and advise me.

5. What are some of the things which you enjoy about your role as a volunteer?

Being a people person I really enjoy meeting the patients and their families and getting to know them as they come back over the weeks for their treatments.
I am always amazed at their positivity and hope I might be helpful if only in a small way during their time in Laurel House.

6. What would you say to anyone considering volunteering?

If you have some free time and are interested in becoming a volunteer within Cancer Services and like me enjoy spending time with people then just do as I did and make that call!

Jade

1. Tell us a little bit about yourself.

I’m Jade McCormick, from Ballycastle, currently studying for a HND Beauty Therapy at Belfast Metropolitan College.

2. Where do you volunteer?

I volunteer with the Northern Health and Social Care Trust to help run Look Good Feel Better workshops for ladies coping with the visible side effects of cancer treatment.

3. What does your role involve?

The workshops take place once a month at Clotworthy House in Antrim. We talk the twelve ladies who come along through a skincare and make up routine and offer advice on any queries which they have relating to skincare and make up application.

4. What motivated you to get involved in volunteering?

I decided to look into volunteering following a personal loss in my family due to cancer. I know what a great job the Macmillan Unit and Laurel House in Antrim do and I really wanted to give something back to help the patients there who are going through cancer and its treatments. As a beauty therapist and self-confessed make up/skin care addict if I was going through the daunting side effects of cancer or its treatment I would greatly appreciate someone showing me how to use my beauty products properly to help me feel that little bit better.

5. What do you enjoy about your role?

The feedback we get from the ladies at the end of the workshops is fantastic, it really makes you realise that you are helping in some small way, which is extremely rewarding. I love make-up and skin care, and to share my passion at workshops is something I really enjoy. I was told by a lady who had attended a workshop that she was able to go about her day with a smile and felt that she had the confidence to walk up to people and ask them how they were, a small task which many of us would take for granted but one which she was greatly struggling with prior to the workshop. It’s these small differences that inspire me to continue working alongside the other fantastic volunteers and all those involved in Look Good Feel Better.

6. What is challenging about your role?

Every single lady attending the workshops is at a different stage in their journey so their needs vary a lot and unfortunately we don’t have endless amounts of time to guide all through every part of a routine. However being able to send them home with a goody bag which has been donated by cosmetic companies and a list of tips means that I know that they will be able to continue to practise what they have learnt at home.

7. What would you say to anyone considering volunteering?

I would recommend this type of volunteering to any beauty therapist. It is undoubtedly one of the most rewarding things I have ever done, and to share my expertise with those who are really in need of a pick-me-up is amazing. Cancer affects so many of us and it’s so gratifying to know that you are making a small change in people’s lives.

8. What skills would someone interested in volunteering in the same role as you need to have?

I feel that a beauty therapy volunteer should be positive, enthusiastic, passionate and happy. Attending a workshop makes you realise that there actually is an awful lot to smile about!