Volunteering related profiles

Volunteer Manager, Michelle Smerdon

michelle for webpageHere is Michelle (right) in action with one of the Pro Bono Program volunteers, Kristie Stewart (left).

Michelle is one of the Pro Bono Case Managers at Cancer Council NSW Woolloomooloo office. The Pro Bono Program supports people affected by cancer by connecting them with lawyers, financial planners, accountants or HR/recruitment professionals who will provide eligible clients with advice and assistance on a free basis.

How long have you been at Cancer Council NSW and what have you enjoyed most?

This week will be my one year anniversary working at Cancer Council NSW.

My favourite part of my job is working with such passionate and motivated (and fun!) people. We have an awesome mix of volunteers and staff members in the team, and we are constantly collaborating and working together to assist people through the program – it’s a much better environment than working in a law firm!

Tell us about the role of volunteers in the Pro Bono Program and how they help achieve Cancer Council NSW’s mission?

The Pro Bono Program couldn’t operate without our wonderful volunteers.

Our volunteers are law students from Universities across NSW, and they are really the face of Cancer Council and the program to the community. Their volunteer role involves calling cancer patients and their families to assess their eligibility for free assistance, and then unpacking the client’s legal, financial or workplace issues with them.

The volunteers talk to a range of people from diverse backgrounds and are constantly checking in with the team to talk about how we might be able to assist someone.

The volunteer role in the Pro Bono Program is integral to providing support to people affected by cancer and the volunteers work so hard to assist clients to obtain much needed advice, alleviating the financial and legal stress that can result due to a diagnosis.

How has being a volunteer manager supported you to develop new skills?

Managing a team of 15+ volunteers (who work for 4-6 months at any one time) has meant I’ve been thrown into a whole new world of skills I hadn’t explored before.

I’ve first and foremost discovered that a lolly jar can often be vital to keep everyone happy! I’ve been able to work with a whole range of people which has taught me to adapt my management style in accordance with different personalities, and I’ve learnt that it’s all about communication, communication, communication.

I try to keep our volunteers up to date by sharing team movements, Cancer Council NSW updates, and good client outcomes (and the occasional funny photo) to make them aware of the incredible impact their role has within Cancer Council NSW.