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Baking brings happiness

Standing by when people are in need doesn’t sit well with a team of Cancer Society volunteers in Whakatane.

When covid restrictions meant they could no longer support cancer patients in the chemotherapy room at Whakatane Hospital, they put their heads together to come up with another way to bring a little bit of comfort to cancer patients during a tough time.

The solution? Delicious home baking delivered fresh to the hospital every week.

Retired nurse Charlotte McGougan coordinates the group of around 20 volunteers in the Whakatane area. Before covid prevented visitors at the hospital, the volunteers took turns as hosts at the hospital’s chemotherapy room.

“We were devastated, not for ourselves, but for the patients and also for the hospital staff. They appreciate us doing the little tasks for their patients, like talking to them, fetching a blanket, making them a cup of tea – those little kindnesses that make a difference for people.”

The volunteers didn’t want to lose any momentum while the service went on hiatus, so the group have continued to meet monthly for coffee.

Charlotte says the volunteers come from all walks of life. Some have had their own cancer journey or supported a loved one with cancer. But they are all united in a common goal, says Charlotte, “to do something to help someone else.”

Some volunteers do the baking, others make the trip to the supermarket for ingredients. They all take turns making the delivery to the hospital.

Covid or not, cancer treatment can’t stop. But home baking brightens an otherwise difficult day for a cancer patient.

“I think it just helps people realise that someone cares for them, that someone is thinking about them. It gives them a boost – a bit of happiness – and they know they’re not alone. Someone, somewhere is wishing them well.”

Charlotte adds it’s also nice to provide a small treat for the staff in the chemotherapy room at the hospital, who are working so hard during challenging times.

Shortbread and savoury scones are perennial favourites, and ginger crunch always goes down well.

Charlotte says the volunteers are looking forward to returning to the hospital when visitor restrictions lift. In the meantime, they’ll continue the weekly delivery of home baking.

“For people with cancer, getting on in the system can be pretty scary. Making them feel welcome and their time at the hospital a little more bearable, gives a lot of satisfaction.”


It gives them a boost – a bit of happiness – and they know they’re not alone. Someone, somewhere is wishing them well.