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Volunteers ‘a blessing’ for Whangamatā residents with cancer

National Volunteer Week is an opportunity to recognise the work of volunteers in small communities, like Jan Collins who saw a need for more support for people with cancer in Whangamatā.

Jan, along with a small but dedicated team of volunteers, joined forces with Cancer Society supportive care nurse, Penny Parsons to set up a monthly support group on the third Monday of each month at Cornerstone House.


My biggest challenge was (and still is) to get people to understand that it’s not a group to talk about cancer – it’s a group to help people feel positive

Jan Collins, Cancer Society volunteer Whangamatā

“We try to alternate it so it doesn’t get boring. Every second month we’ll have a morning tea and a speaker. Then every other month we’ll go out for a coffee or think of something different to do. The idea of our group is to socialise. They get each others’ phone numbers and help each other.”

Jan has a long background in nursing, including a six-year stint in Papua New Guinea and then 20 years for the New Zealand Fire Service. She volunteers because she felt a calling to keep on helping.

“When we retired to Whangamata, I still wanted to keep going. I specialised in managing grief and post-traumatic stress in the fire service and I didn’t want to sit around and do nothing.”

For Parsons, who works across the Hauraki and Coromandel, the support of volunteers in a place like Whangamatā is “a blessing”.

“Volunteers, particularly in our more rural areas, are worth their weight in gold. They’re awesome at keeping in touch with all our clients. We, as nurses, couldn’t do our work without them, they’re amazing,” says Parsons.

“When we started, for the first months we were getting around seven people to the support group. Now it’s regularly 25. It’s grown from small beginnings, thanks to our dedicated volunteers connecting with their community.”

“Cancer is so prevalent,” adds Jan. “It’s important the word gets out about our group. We’re not focused on a specific cancer – it’s for anyone that needs support associated with cancer.”

About the Cancer Society support group

The Open Support Group – Whangamatā meets on the third Monday of every month from 10.30am – 12.00pm at Cornerstone House, 101 Ocean Road, Whangamatā.

For more information on volunteering in the Waikato/Bay of Plenty region, please contact Penny Parsons on 027 684 0004 or