What is your background?
I’m a physiotherapist working in the public health system. At the moment I work closely with women during pregnancy, people who have sustained hand fractures, and I treat any pain caused by muscles or joints.
What does your volunteer work involve?
As the Entertainment Coordinator for Hornsby Relay, it’s my job to ensure there’s something fun happening for the full 24 hours of the event. I’ve been connecting with talented locals, reconnecting with old friends and working closely with the committee. They have been invaluable in helping me coordinate what is shaping up to be an incredible program!
Why did you choose to volunteer at the Cancer Council?
I found out about volunteering through the Cancer Council simply by Googling volunteering opportunities in Sydney. Cancer Council NSW was the first organisation to reply to my email enquiry and invite me to their upcoming meeting. What I loved most about meeting the team was everyone’s enthusiasm and dedication for making this a fantastic event for such an important cause. I know it feels like an accident to end up here, but I’m so glad I did.
What message would you like to tell others about cancer?
As a health professional I’ve treated a number of people dealing with cancer, and the support from friends and family for suffers cannot be emphasised enough. It really can make such an enormous difference in giving courage to get through treatment and recovery, and it’s fantastic that this is recognised in the Survivors and Carers Walk at Relay.
What has been your most fond memory of Relay?
I haven’t actually attended a Relay yet, so looking forward to making some amazing new memories soon!
What is your number one tip for staying fresh across the 24 hours?
Drink plenty of water, wear supportive shoes, and don’t underestimate the power of a quick nap.
What do you do when not volunteering for the Cancer Council?
When I’m not at work I love being outdoors, especially bushwalking in our local area. I’ve always loved sport and am currently playing touch footy socially, am a regular pilates-goer and also enjoy ceroc dancing. I’ve also been heavily involved with a number of youth Rotary organisations over the years, in particular a running a Rotaract club and facilitating youth leadership training programs. When I’m not staying busy I love a good board game challenge, baking or sewing.
Can you tell of something you are passionate about?
At work I’m passionate about finding ways to provide a better service to our patients. Working in a high-demand public health system has challenges, however we’ve been able to make some great improvements by evaluating the way we do things and being open to new ideas, and these have had very real benefits to patients which is exciting. Throughout my involvement in youth Rotary programs I’ve always been passionate about empowering youth. I’ve had the privilege to work with such diverse groups of people, and I’ve found that helping young people realise just how much they are capable of can be so inspiring.
Chair of the Cancer Action Network as well as volunteering on fundraising events, Stars of the North, Breakthrough Art Festival
What is your background? (Personal/professional)
I have always had an interest in Health. When I finished school I studied Dental Therapy. As a Dental Therapist I worked in the School Dental Service doing simple dental procedures on children and also teaching dental health education. I changed career paths after a couple of years and worked in Advertising as a media planner buyer. When I started my family I gave up work for a while to focus on being a mum. In 2006 I enrolled at Macquarie University as a mature aged student and over the next five years completed a Bachelor of Health degree. It was during my final year of university in 2010 that I started to volunteer for Cancer Council NSW. Initially on Health promotion projects and the North Shore Relay For Life. In March 2011 I did Consumer Advocacy Training at Cancer Council NSW and found my passion! In May 2011 I helped found the Northern Suburbs Cancer Action Network, and since then I have Chaired the volunteer committee.
In 2011 I started working in the Nutrition Department, part-time covering a maternity leave position. When this positon finished I was fortunate to start work part-time on the 13 11 20 service, and more recently on the Healthy Living after Cancer Program. Throughout this time I have continued to volunteer in my time off, Chairing the Northern Suburbs Cancer Action Network, and working on fundraising events, most recently the inaugural Stars of the North – Dance For Cancer, and the Breakthrough Art Festival.
What does your volunteer work involve?
What I love about my volunteer work at Cancer Council is the variety it provides, being able to help on fundraising events such as Relay For Life, or Stars of the North and Breakthrough is very different to my day to day work. Volunteering also allows me to follow my passion for advocacy.
In my role as Chair of the Northern Suburbs Cancer Action Network I facilitate meetings, put the meeting agenda’s together, and work with the team of other volunteers on local advocacy issues as well as supporting Cancer Council’s state advocacy campaigns.
Why did you choose to volunteer at Cancer Council NSW?
Throughout my life I have known many people who have been diagnosed with cancer. When someone I know is diagnosed with cancer my initial reaction is to want to help, but often there is nothing I can do and I feel helpless. Volunteering is an opportunity for me to help, through raising money for cancer services and research, and in my advocacy role in being a voice for others to help make our community better for cancer patients and everyone in our community. My father died of a smoking related disease which is why I am passionate about advocating for smoke free environments. In his final weeks of life he was reliant on palliative care. At that time in our lives I was very grateful that my father received this care and I want to ensure everyone gets access to appropriate and timely palliative care services.
What message would you like to tell others about cancer?
Working on the 13 11 20 service I speak to cancer patients every day. Cancer effects 1 in 2 of us at some stage of our lives whether personally or through someone we love. I can think of no better cause to support, and I feel my volunteer work is very much appreciated and that I am making a difference.
What do you enjoy most about volunteering?
I get a lot out of volunteering. Volunteering has given me skills that I apply throughout my life. I now don’t feel so helpless when I hear someone I know has cancer. I know that in my own little way I am making a difference. I have also met some amazing people who I am very fortunate to call friends.
What work have you done at Cancer Council NSW that you are most proud of or excited about?
I am very proud to volunteer on the Northern Suburbs Cancer Action Network. As a committee we have helped make some positive changes to improve the health of our local community. These include supporting North Sydney and Hunters Hill Councils go smoke free in 2011/2012. We also worked with the Lymphoedema Support Group in Northern Sydney to make a resource called ‘Lymphoedema Stories, The Untold Truth’. This booklet of stories is very well received and I regularly give it to cancer patients in my work on 13 11 20. More recently our Northern Suburbs Cancer Action Network has worked with Ku-ring-gai Council to help them implement a smoke free outdoor policy in all their outdoor green spaces and parks. This new law will come into effect on 1 November.
Do you get a sense of accomplishment from being involved in Cancer Council NSW’s mission to beat cancer?
Volunteering at Cancer Council NSW is extremely rewarding. I feel the work I am involved in is making a difference. Cancer Council NSW is funded through community donations. Not relying on Government for funding allows Cancer Council to be independent and also allows Cancer Council to speak out in advocacy without fear that funding will be effected.
This is why I feel it is so important to be involved in the fundraising events, so that I can help to raise money to support this work.
Do you feel personally rewarded by your involvement with Cancer Council NSW? How?
I feel blessed to volunteer and work for Cancer Council NSW. The last five years since being involved with Cancer Council NSW have been extremely rewarding. I have seen the difference that programs and services Cancer Council NSW provide make in the lives of cancer patients and their families. I feel honoured to be able to help.
What would you tell your friends about volunteering at Cancer Council NSW?
If people ask about volunteering at Cancer Council NSW I tell them about my positive experience and encourage them to get involved if they can.
What do you do when not volunteering at Cancer Council NSW?
When not volunteering I work on the Healthy Living after Cancer program. In my spare time I like to spend time with family and friends. I also love painting and although I don’t get to do it very often I enjoy it when I can. Last year I did training in becoming a wellness coach, and I now write a blog around wellness.
Can you tell of something you are passionate about?
I am passionate about community health and the volunteer work that the Northern Suburbs Cancer action network does. I am also passionate about helping people to make changes to their own health, which has led me to learn about wellness coaching.
What are your hopes for the future?
I hope that through research, treatments and outcomes for cancer patients keep improving.
Alison Todd celebrated 25 years volunteering with Cancer Council NSW in November 2015.
Why did you start volunteering with Cancer Council NSW?
Like so many volunteers, this journey started when I lost someone I dearly loved. At first I thought I was looking for answers but, as time went on, I found a passionate belief that volunteering can make the difference to cancer outcomes in the community and this is now my focus.
What have you got up to in those 25 years?
Over the years I have volunteered for fundraising events, with my favourite always being Daffodil Day as the symbol of hope for the future. In my advocacy role as an MP Liaison, last Daffodil Day I met with my local MP. At the Daffodil Day site he met some very special volunteers, and I had the opportunity to gain his support for our Saving Life 2015 campaign. This very successful campaign now means that people having chemotherapy in public hospitals no longer have to pay a co-payment.
As part of the CanAct team and as an MP Liaison I work with an amazing group of volunteers and staff. The diversity of our team has given strength to our outcomes and the personal journey for me is one of growing anticipation to live in a community that can defeat cancer.
In 2005 I became part of the Community Speakers Program, and have now given over one hundred presentations to business and community groups. These presentations give the wider community the knowledge they need for cancer prevention and support.
Lisa was drawn to the community aspect
“My name is Lisa Smajlov. When I first heard about Relay For Life, I was drawn to the community aspect.
As a Community Coordinator my passion is bringing people together. Psychologically, cancer treatment is a rollercoaster of emotions and often very isolating.
The value of bringing people together – survivors, carers and the general community, not just for a few hours, but 24 hours on the Relay track, is incalculable.
“I also Relay because when I was in my mid 20’s I had an abnormal pap smear. Laser surgery efficiently zapped it, but unfortunately, too many of my family and my friends have (and still are) battling this insidious disease. Often I feel helpless in the face of cancer, but through being a part of Relay I feel like I am taking a stand in solidarity against the disease.
“At the heart of every Relay for me are the connections formed in the community – individuals, teams, entertainers and business, all coming together. Entwined with the community to raise money is the opportunity for local entertainers to perform, fun events like ‘Ms Relay’, Tug of War and Silent Disco, and Fight Back activities like the Candidates’ Debate to raise awareness and advocate for change.
“As I walk around the track and see people participating in activities, catching up, and the committee working behind the scenes, I feel a sense of hope. What keeps me returning every year is seeing survivors who come back, share their journey, and inspire me through their positivity and strength. At candlelight I remember the family and friends who are no longer with us – but always walking alongside me on the track.”
Some volunteers are at Cancer Council NSW as relatively short-term participants in our mission to beat cancer. Short term or not, many have stories to share, most often transformative and inspiring.
Alex Weidner was with us at our Western Region in early 2015.
“I have been interning with the Cancer Council for just over four months, and from when I first began my placement to now at the end, my perceptions of the community have changed significantly.
“I originally come from a small community so I always knew the community had a voice, but I never really knew how loud it could be. I have been under the supervision of a Community Programs Coordinator and this is where I have developed my understanding of the community’s power and persuasion.
“I attended and participated in advocacy groups in both the Albury and Corowa communities and I have seen and learnt how much these groups achieve for their communities in the way of change, information and support.
“I attended the Planning for Change conference in Sydney and was able to see how community groups from across NSW are coming together and fighting to make a change at policy level.
“Since being with the Cancer Council I have been able to see the accomplishments that community groups achieve and have developed a huge appreciation for community people and groups.”
Gary Musgrave is Volunteer Coordinator of the Community Speakers Program for the Sydney Metro Region. He organises volunteer speakers to talk to community groups and businesses on the prevention and screening of various cancers.
Before he retired, Gary worked as an Actuary and he still maintains his involvement in this field by volunteering as Chair of the Board of Examiners for the Institute of Actuaries of Australia. He is also a member of Dynamic North Shore Toastmasters Club in North Sydney.
When asked what part of volunteering at Cancer Council NSW he enjoys most, Gary said, “The feeling that I am giving something back to the community, by interacting with various community groups and companies in spreading the cancer awareness and prevention message through cancer talks. I also appreciate the responsibility and the degree of independence I have by being the Coordinator of Cancer Council NSW’s Community Speakers Program.
“A memorable moment at Cancer Council NSW was when I undertook a marketing campaign targeting various community organisations, seeking their interest in having speakers present cancer talks. I felt a sense of achievement when there was an excellent response by community groups requesting speakers.”
Andrew Simpson is no stranger to his local community in our Southern NSW Region. Motivated by his personal family history of cancer, Andrew has dedicated his life to helping others and has cemented his place within Cancer Council NSW. Andrew’s father sadly passed away from lung cancer, he cared for his niece while she successfully battled leukaemia, and his wife and sister have been diagnosed with breast cancer. But this has just continued to inspire him in all areas of his life.
Working as a hospital chaplain, Andrew makes himself available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, for those that need him. “I usually break the ice by offering chemotherapy patients a cup of tea or coffee. This gives them the opportunity to talk about anything they want to talk about. It can be a great outlet for these patients,” Andrew says. This is already an extension of his natural compassion, but he doesn’t let his busy work schedule deter him from doing more.
Currently, Andrew is the Volunteer Coordinator at the Information Centre within the Shoalhaven Cancer Care Centre, providing support to those suffering and their families and friends. It is his experiences combined with his empathetic and kind nature that make him irreplaceable in the Centre.
Andrew is also a keen advocate of the Saving Life 2015 campaign, encouraging the NSW government to continue to work towards the prevention and treatment of cancer. After volunteering for six years, Andrew has decided to try something new this year, participating in his first Relay For Life, and agreeing to be an ambassador for the 2015 Nowra event. “It’s a big event. I’ve always wanted to get involved, this is my chance. I would encourage everyone to join or register a team and walk a few laps with me on my first Relay,” he says.
Val volunteered for 18 years
On Friday 5 December 2014, Valda (Val) Homer finished up her volunteering with Cancer Council NSW after 18 years of service.
Val began her volunteering with Cancer Council NSW on 22 July 1996. She was a stalwart of the Friday mail-packing team at Woolloomooloo. Undertaking her eighteenth year with us in 2014, she told the readers of Volunteer Voice in June of that year how she spent her volunteering time “preparing and organising mailouts for campaigns. Sorting and dealing with returned mail.”
Valda chose to volunteer “to support Cancer Council NSW in its work to combat cancer, and support people who have cancer and their families. My husband died from cancer and I wanted to contribute to Cancer Council’s work in memory of him.
“I enjoy the company of the other volunteers at Cancer Council, working with the staff, and doing work as part of a team. Overall, I just like to think that the work I do is of benefit to the organisation, and that I can contribute by volunteering that saves money for other direct services.
“Having experienced cancer in my family I feel that Cancer Council NSW does great work to prevent cancer and to educate and support people with cancer and their families.
“I have made some good friends among my fellow volunteers. I am also impressed by the commitment of the staff.
“I think volunteers are appreciated and made to feel welcome by the staff we have contact with. There is variety in the work we can do and I think Cancer Council tries to provide activities that match our skills and the time we have available.
“I’m passionate about my family and friends and keeping in touch with friends all round the world. I like to support a range of charities and believe that those of us with the time and the means should contribute to helping others to whatever level we can.”
The following story appeared in Volunteer Voice, June 2014.
James Nixon has recently joined us as the new Penrith Community Office administration assistant.
His main duties will be assisting with the Raiser’s Edge database and coordinating the Nepean Cancer Council Information Centre (CCIC) monthly roster.
James comes to the role with 18 months volunteering experience at TRI Community Exchange as a volunteer administration and IT officer. In this role he built skills in the Microsoft package and IT.
James is currently completing a BA Applied Business Management through Federation University Australia.
James is an avid reader and movie fan. He lists his favorite read as the ‘Night Dawn Trilogy’, and according to James, the greatest movies of all time are the ‘Lord of the Rings’ sequence. James is obviously a big trilogy fan!
According to Community Programs Coordinator Rodney Titov’s numerology facts, the energy from the number three is ‘optimistic, fun loving and strives to uplift and colour its surroundings’. That’s James.
“I am looking forward to learning about Cancer Council NSW being one of the biggest charities in NSW and having fun,” said James.
Rodney said, “having James in on Thursday allows the office to be open to the community more, and will be a great assistance to the CCIC. Penrith Community Office also leads the way in attracting male volunteers, which is fantastic. Along with James at the Office, the Nepean CCIC has five men volunteering there.”
Cancer Council NSW could not provide the services it does without volunteers contributing their time and energy, spirit and skills, at every level of the organisation.
Every day we acknowledge our volunteers, but there can never be enough said or done to match what volunteers bring to Cancer Council NSW.
You know who you are and what you do, and know that you do it without expectation of reward or public acknowledgement, but in this moment, in this place… ‘Thank you’.