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Volunteer Q&A

Have you thought about volunteering for Jo's Cervical Cancer Trust but you're not sure what's involved? Are you worried you wouldn't have time or don't know enough to be able to support others? Or perhaps you want to know more about what training you will receive?

Our support service volunteers play a vital role in delivering Jo's Cervical Cancer Trust's services; our helpline, support groups, forum and Ask the Expert service and we couldn't function without them. As part of Volunteers' Week we gave you an opportunity to put your questions to two of our wonderful volunteers to highlight the great support they offer and to help you make a decision as to whether you might be interested in joining our fantastic volunteer team.

Your questions were passed on to support group leader Emmeline and helpliner Caroline.

Emmeline has been our Peterborough support group leader since 2011.

Emmeline says: "Following my own diagnosis with cervical cancer some time ago, I experienced the fantastic benefits that mutual support can bring to a very uncertain and frightening time. After I had moved on from that difficult time, I came to reflect on what Jo's Cervical Cancer Trust had meant to me and how the support I had received from the online forum had made a huge difference to the way I coped with my diagnosis and recovery. As a result I knew that I wanted to help other ladies to find support and information when they needed it, as I had done."

Caroline has been taking calls on the helpline since attending our volunteer training weekend in 2014.

Caroline says: "Having been affected by cervical abnormalities, I know a little about the anxiety an abnormal smear and treatment can cause. I have learned that some ladies just want to chat. They know we don't have all the answers but on more than one occasion I have been told that they feel better talking to someone who is detached from their normal life. It feels good to put down the phone knowing that the person on the other end feels better."

To become a service volunteer you need to have been affected by cervical cancer or cervical abnormalities either personally (yourself or a family member), or through your profession - for example, working in the field of gynaecology. However, if you haven't been affected, and would like to get involved, you can also volunteer in other ways such as helping in our office or at our fundraising events. If you have other volunteering questions please submit these as well.

Below you can read the answers to your questions:

Questions for Emmeline:

Why did you decide to become a Jo's volunteer?

A few years ago I had a diagnosis of cervical cancer.  I was extremely fortunate and my own cancer journey was over quickly with a positive outcome but through that experience I realised how isolating a diagnosis can be.  Whilst I was going through those uncertain times I used the Jo's forum regularly to make contact with others who had gone through similar experiences and understood how I was feeling.  I undoubtedly felt less alone through the support of others. 

When I came through the other side of my cancer experience I started to reflect on how fortunate I had been and I felt the need to reach out to other women who were going through similar challenges.  The opportunity came to set up a group in my area and I felt this was the perfect way to enable other women to benefit from mutual face-to-face support.

Do you feel like it's a big time commitment to volunteer?

I take the running of my group very seriously because it is something that I care about very deeply - I know the good it can do and that makes me want to do it well.  From that perspective it is a big commitment.  I knew when I took the opportunity to start a group that I would have to commit for the long term. 

However, in terms of time commitment, I don't feel that it's a big deal.  It doesn't demand a great deal of my time and fits easily into my everyday life - a little bit of time spent keeping in touch with the women on my contact list via email and social media and some time arranging speakers or activities if I have any planned.   

What's the most rewarding part about being a Jo's volunteer?

Without a doubt, knowing how important the group is to the women that attend.  I often hear from attendees that they really value the opportunity to hear about the experiences of other women in similar circumstances and to share their own.  I have come to realise over the last 3 1/2 years that there's nothing more powerful than women supporting each other unconditionally.

What would you say to someone who was thinking about becoming a volunteer - perhaps one piece of advice?

If you think you have got the time and the desire to commit to this then don't let any anxieties put you off.  Not only will you be providing a critical service but it is so satisfying to be enabling women to come together, the personal rewards are huge.

I know you said only one piece of advice but here's another one......any nerves you have are good.  I think to be nervous means you care.

Were you nervous before your first meeting?

Yes, definitely!  And many other meetings since.  I care a great deal about being a support group leader and I want to facilitate a support group that provides what women need.  I was nervous because it means a lot to me.  Also, the first meeting is hard because everything is new, you most likely don't know the women who are coming and you feel responsible for what happens in the room.  Having said that I knew these feelings were natural; the nervousness faded over time as I became more comfortable with my role. And of course, when I started to get positive feedback about how the group was making a difference to people, I could relax a little.

What has been your highlight of volunteering so far?

Without a doubt a conversation I had with one of the women who attended my group.  This lady had had a particularly difficult cancer journey and had suffered some significant side effects of her treatment - her life had been changed as a result of her diagnosis.  After one meeting she told me how important attending the group was to her.  She said that she didn't feel able to talk to any of her family or friends about the things she was going through because she didn't want to be a burden to them and felt that she should be happy that she had survived the disease.  She said that if she didn't attend the group then she wouldn't talk about her difficulties at all.  I knew then that I was facilitating something so important. 


Questions for Caroline

Why did you decide to become a Jo's volunteer?

I had given up work to support my parents through ill health.  However, I had a little spare time that I wanted to put to good use and a few years ago I had an abnormal smear, followed by treatment. I had also worked in a Colposcopy Department and through work I had heard of Jo's Cervical Cancer Trust. Jo's was the obvious choice for me because of my personal experience together with the knowledge I had gained through work, I hoped I could help a little.

Did you receive training? What was it like?

The training was excellent, if I'm honest, far more intensive and thorough than I was expecting. All volunteers are invited to a weekend away.  Everyone was very welcoming and supportive. As a first timer I had a 'buddy' assigned to me to help me along. All aspects of being a helpline volunteer were covered, including role play and support for us as volunteers.  It was a very 'full on' weekend and we worked very hard but I thoroughly enjoyed it and it was a pleasure to meet the Jo's team.

What's the best thing about volunteering for Jo's?

Two things; the good feeling you have after a telephone conversation where you have helped/reassured someone who began the telephone call really upset, and the support you receive from the Jo's team.

How did you feel before your first helpline shift?

Anxious and a little nervous.

How do you think volunteering for Jo's has helped you in your life, i.e. what skills have you gained?

I have become a good listener but I have also learned that sometimes you do not have all the answers. You have to learn to be kind to yourself if a call leaves you feeling frustrated that you couldn't do more to help.

What has been your highlight of volunteering so far?

The callers who have ended their call laughing and saying they felt so much better for the chat.

Date last updated: 
01 Jun 2015