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Volunteering ‘healing for the soul’

Huia Patena says volunteering at the Cancer Society’s Lions Lodge in Hamilton fills her soul.

Huia wanted to “give back” having had the support of the Cancer Society when she was undergoing treatment for breast cancer in 2022. The Cancer Society helped her get to all her medical appointments, as well as attending support groups and counselling for herself and her whānau.

She said when she first stepped inside the Lodge, she had a sense she was needed there.

“I saw a lot of Māori faces and not a lot of Māori hosts. I knew I could be of help.”

Huia has been volunteering weekly at the Lodge since August last year as a host, welcoming people and showing manaakitanga.

“People come in and they can look scared. We have a lot of conversation right from the front door to their room and by the time I leave them often they’re giving me a hug.”

Huia says she has a warm welcome for everyone, but she recognises Māori guests especially respond well to her greeting them and seeing themselves represented in the volunteer kaimahi (staff).

“Straight away it’s ‘Kia ora’, and we go in for a kihi or a hug.”

Huia says she finds the environment and mahi “healing for the soul”.

“I say this is ‘bigger than me’. You have to leave your baggage at the door and be there for them (the guests). It’s not a 5-minute job, you need to talk to them, spend time sitting with them one on one.

“It fills my soul and makes me more passionate about raising awareness in our people.”

Huia’s personal journey as a breast cancer survivor, and now supporting others impacted by cancer, has inspired her to raise awareness of the importance of early detection. She has been organising group bookings for wāhine to get their mammograms and fundraising events with speakers.

If you are keen to find out more about how you can get involved in volunteering with the Cancer Society head to