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Volunteering for 34 years and counting

National Volunteer Week recognises the unsung heroes who enrich their communities by generously giving their time.

Facing a 30-minute drive into Hamilton for cancer treatment can seem overwhelming for people in communities like Te Awamutu. That’s where driving coordinators like Hazel Robertson, come into the picture. This friendly volunteer, who’s been with Cancer Society for 34 years, helps transport our clients to and from the hospital during one of the most emotional periods of their lives.

“The clients know we’ll get them to their appointment in the fastest way possible,” says Hazel. “They don’t have to worry about the person driving, or parking or getting to their room. They know they’re completely safe. They trust the drivers.”

When Hazel first started as a volunteer, Te Awamutu was a sleepy town and getting into Hamilton was difficult.

“When the Cancer Society was first formed here, we didn’t really know our way around. We knew transport would be valuable because back then, a lot of women didn’t drive. And now families are working so it can be hard for people to get to treatment.”

Hazel, who lost her husband to cancer, explains that providing transport for a person experiencing cancer is a lot more than it sounds.

“You’re part of their emotional journey; it’s more than just a drive. Our clients trust us because they can share and know it will go no further, and that they won’t be criticized.

“When we get to the hospital, we go in and make sure they get into the room. If they ask us to stay with them, we will. Otherwise, we go and get a coffee and wait for them to finish. We never know when we’re going home – I was there for 8 hours once! But I love it, it’s very rewarding.”

Hazel volunteers alongside Doreen O’Connor, Brian Quinlan and Grant Lichtwark (pictured above). The quartet meet once a month and also try to attend the monthly Te Awamutu support group run by supportive care nurse, Leoni Lawry.

“To tell you the truth, I get a lot of love out of volunteering. We are a good group of volunteers, we have a lot of laughs. And the drivers are so willing, there’s no hesitation.  And the Cancer Society looks after us extremely well, they’re very supportive of us.”

Hazel also volunteers as a Daffodil Day area coordinator and helps make our annual street appeal a success in Te Awamutu.

“I started out helping with the money and now I’m the treasurer!” laughs Hazel. “We pre-sell bunches of fresh flowers and organise collection boxes in the shops. Then we put the tables and chairs out for the street collectors and organise the rosters. It’s quite a big month for us.”

Hazel, who is also a member of the Rosetown Lions of Te Awamutu, adds that volunteering is a great way to learn patience and recommends people give it a go.

“I guarantee you’ll get the most satisfaction out of it. The people are wonderful, and those going through the journey are very brave. Volunteering is a big part of my life.”

About Transport to Treatment

Cancer Society provides a free driving service for people with cancer in the Waikato and Bay of Plenty. A network of trained volunteers drive clients from their home or designated meeting place to medical appointments including treatment at Waikato Hospital, and return them afterwards. 

This service can be booked by calling 0800 22 77 44 or emailing

I guarantee you’ll get the most satisfaction out of it. The people are wonderful, and those going through the journey are very brave. Volunteering is a big part of my life.

Hazel Robertson, Volunteer group coordinator