National Volunteer Week, which starts 19 June, celebrates these unsung heroes, like Joan Frost, who enrich their communities by generously giving their time.
“My mother-in-law died of cancer at 45 so volunteering was always something I wanted to do. A lot of people have had someone close to them with cancer, so this support is needed for sure. If we didn’t have our little group, we wouldn’t be able to do what we do.”
For Joan and the small team of Cancer Society volunteers she helps coordinate, volunteering is an important – and necessary – form of support in Taupō.
The group, which comprises Celia Gordon, Susan Bowron, Marion Fournier, Foye Bailey, Raewyn Booth and Bronwyn Gillies began in 1995 when it became apparent how isolated people with cancer felt in the area.
“At the time, I had a friend on the journey, and I knew my hairdresser had a friend in the same position, and they both had no-one to talk to about it. That’s why we began our group. We started with informal monthly meetings with speakers to come along and chat to everybody.
“I think the meetings help people realise they’re not alone out there. It’s a pretty big shock to find out you have cancer but finding out someone else has been on that journey seems to help.”
Joan and her team also spend time at Taupō Hospital in the chemotherapy unit, a vital helping hand that was paused due to Covid-19 restrictions.
“It’s probably nearly two years since we’ve been in the hospital, but we’ve just started back up again. We go up there every Tuesday, put on morning tea and lunch and have a chat with the clients. It’s a hard time for them and this can take their mind off it.”
The group work closely with the Cancer Society and are excited to be working with Alison Richardson, Cancer Society’s new supportive care nurse in Taupō.
“Having someone local like Alison makes a huge difference. If she thinks someone needs extra support, she will contact us and we’ll support them however we can. And it goes both ways. We don’t want people to go under the radar because Taupō is quite a large area.”
They also provide advocacy and companionship, not to mention cosy knitted hats made by local women for those going through chemotherapy and wig stands recently donated by Taupō Woodworkers Guild. Joan acknowledges it’s a team effort.
“Some of the ladies in the group have been on the journey themselves so they want to give back the support they received. It’s personal for us.”
I think the meetings help people realise they’re not alone out there. It’s a pretty big shock to find out you have cancer but finding out someone else has been on that journey seems to helpJoan Frost, Taupō volunteer
About Cancer Society's supportive care services
Cancer Society supportive care services are free for people with cancer and their whānau, and a referral is not necessary. To be connected to support groups and services, call 0800 22 77 44 or email email@example.com