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Volunteering to honour loved ones

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

For volunteer driver, Ewen Pilcher, no place is too far to travel.

The Hamilton local has been known to travel as far as Huntly to help our clients get to cancer treatment and has even put his hand up to travel to Rotorua.

Ewen, who is now retired, says that volunteering over the past three years has been humbling.

“The best part is meeting the people. You meet all sorts of people, from all walks of life and nationalities. Even though it may only be a ten-minute drive and I may never see them again, I like to try get to know them.”

Ewen, and volunteer drivers like him, pick clients up at their homes and then return them at the end of their appointment. Sometimes, they can be transporting the same client for days or even months depending on their treatment schedule.

”You meet lots of different people. One that stands out for me was an elderly man well into his 80s, who I transported almost every day for two months. When I went fishing one day, I dropped a couple of fillets off to him. He was quite appreciative of that.  That’s how close you can get. The sad thing is you don’t find out how they are after they’ve finished their treatment and you do wonder how they got on.”

The nature of the role puts our drivers into contact with people at very vulnerable and emotional stages of their lives, but Ewen explains that they’re prepared.

“You’re trained to know how to respond to people, how not to be intrusive and how to let the conversation flow. You know to keep things confidential.

“If you’ve transported a client a couple of times, you can tell how they’re feeling by their mood. I try to keep my conversation as light as possible, I’ve got quite a zany sense of humour but you’ve got to know how they are before bringing that into the conversation.”

Volunteering for the Cancer Society has a special meaning to Ewen, who lost two brothers and an ex-partner to cancer.

“I do have a personal interest but I don’t dwell on it. I think I’m doing something positive in memory of those that have departed.

“Cancer touches a lot of people. I don’t know how people could cope and get on with their daily lives without Cancer Society. Usually, treatment causes problems with driving and that’s where we come into the picture. People appreciate not having to rely on public transport or relatives, and the appreciation really shows.”

Ewen encourages people looking for something to do with their time to take up volunteering.

“At the time I thought, ‘I enjoy driving, I enjoy meeting people’. I thought it would be right up my alley and it has been.

“Volunteering can be different things for different people.  It gives you a feel-good feeling that you’re helping somebody that’s going through a rough time. I enjoy it, it’s not work. If you ever have an inkling to volunteer, do it.”

About Cancer Society services

Cancer Society services such as transport to treatment and the Cancer Society’s Lions Lodge are free for clients across the Waikato and Bay of Plenty thanks to the generosity of volunteers and donations. To make a donation, you can do so here.

I do have a personal interest but I don’t dwell on it. I think I’m doing something positive in memory of those that have departed. Cancer touches a lot of people.

Ewen Pilcher, Volunteer driver