We asked some of our wonderful volunteers who give up their time to help Jo's Cervical Cancer Trust about their experiences. Here we speak to Lou.
In what way do you volunteer for Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust and what does it entail?
When did you first start volunteering for the charity and why did you become a volunteer?
I was diagnosed with cervical cancer in 2010 and at the time nobody told me about Jo's, I found them by chance on Google. During the following 12 months I was constantly on their forum talking to other women, as well as using their Ask the Expert service. But I also wanted to meet people face-to-face, have a coffee and a chat during my treatment. When I was well enough and the opportunity arose to apply to be a support group leader in Manchester I thought I'd give it a go.
On top of my work as a support group leader, I wanted to give back to the charity itself. Walk for Fun is a great way to get friends, family and everyone in the community together and raise funds that will increase the charity's visibility and the great work they’re doing. When I started out two years ago not many health professionals in my area even knew of Jo’s but this has changed since then because of Walk for Fun and the posters and information material I take around to them. The walks are also a great way to celebrate all the strong women who are facing treatment.
What was the training like?
For the support group I attended a training weekend where I received lots of information on cervical cancer and how to facilitate the meetings. It also enables all the volunteers to meet each other which is great way of networking. For the Walk for Fun you don’t need any training. I think a lot of people think they don’t have the time or appropriate skills, but when I started out I realised that they're mostly skills I already used in my daily life and job.
Has there been a particularly striking moment/experience during your work as a volunteer? If so what was it?
There have been a couple of striking moments, it’s hard to choose, but one that stands out is the day we launched the support group. After talking to the ladies who had signed up on email it was such an overwhelming experience to finally meet these women, to see everyone getting together and sharing experiences. That day was emotional with some tears as it was such a special moment, I was so proud and felt so privileged to be part of this experience.
It is also great to see how the walk in Manchester has developed. The first year we had about 50 participants and managed to raise a staggering £12,000 which we thought we couldn’t beat. In 2013 however we reached over 150 walkers raising a total of £13,000.
For the fifteenth anniversary of Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust, our community in Manchester is hoping to raise £15,000. For those that can’t attend the walk, and to reach our target, many are organising other events. Recently one of the ladies who attends the support group arranged a fashion show and over 100 people turned up. It started with Walk for Fun, but it’s great to see everyone not only raising funds for the charity but also awareness for cervical cancer prevention.
What would you tell someone who is not sure if they should volunteer for Jo’s?
Just give it a go; you don’t have to become support group leader or work on the helpline right away, start off gently. Do a little fundraising with your friends or take some posters to your local GP and tell them about Jo’s. I started doing that in the hospital where I was treated and I recently went in and they had three Jo's posters which was great. After just two years we are now well connected and have started to get invited to events to represent the charity. So all these little things really help to make a difference. Once you start it just becomes infectious.