“Never underestimate your ability to make someone else’s life better – even if you never know it.” –Greg Louganis
The Volunteers at Regional Cancer Care Northwest (Cancer Centre) are all there for the same reason – to give back and make a difference for someone else. This team of 40 volunteers include two spiritual care volunteers and two volunteers who care for the plants throughout the Cancer Centre that help make it such a warm, welcoming space.
Cancer Centre Volunteers can be found Monday to Friday from 8:00 am to 4:00 pm, offering a beverage or snack, a warm blanket, and a friendly conversation to patients and their family members.
Lakehead University student, Christine May, started volunteering at the Cancer Centre to expand her volunteering experience and says it has been wonderful. “I love chatting with patients and hearing their life stories. It thrills me when a patient tells me that it’s their last time coming in for chemo or radiation therapy. The staff and other volunteers I’ve interacted with are so kind and supportive.” Christine currently volunteers with Ashley Wilkinson, who also studies at Lakehead University. The two have also become good friends outside the hospital walls.
Volunteer Services sat down with the Service Leader for the Cancer Centre Volunteer team, Kim Montanaro, to find out more about these Volunteers.
Cancer Centre Volunteers (left to right) Marilyn Pereczky, Alex Sawyer, and Team Leader, Kim Montanaro.
VS: What are three words to describe the Cancer Centre Volunteer team?
KM: Compassionate, thoughtful and dedicated. They are among the most caring people I have met.
VS: What are the most rewarding aspects of volunteering in the Cancer Centre?
KM: Being a part of a bigger team that treats patients. As a volunteer, we see the strength, courage and positive attitudes of the patients and families and we learn ourselves from them. The many thank-yous from patients/families reinforce that things we are doing to help –providing a listening ear, a warm cup of tea, help on the computer, helping to find their way to another area, etc.- are all appreciated. Many new friendships among the volunteers themselves have grown and continue long after volunteering has ended. For myself, I feel honoured to get to know all the volunteers and help in their initial training and introduction to the Cancer Centre. Many have become new friends outside of volunteering. They inspire me and have helped me build my confidence and self esteem by giving me the honour and privilege of being their “Service Leader”.
Marilyn McGuire and Irene Krasniuk
VS: What do you think it means to patients and/or family members to have Cancer Centre Volunteers involved in their journey?
KM: I believe that having volunteers involved in the patients’ and families’ journeys is very important to them. Volunteers are often the first “friendly” face they meet after checking in with reception. As part of our role at the Cancer Centre, we do the New Patient Orientation with them, meeting and greeting them and taking them to the appropriate waiting area. New patients are often overwhelmed at this time, but the reassurance of the volunteer when giving them information that they may need –the services that are offered, we can help with finding their way around, help on the computer, provide refreshments, where to find a ride to /from appointments, where they can stay if from out of town etc. – is always appreciated. I feel that the volunteers provide a comforting, understanding and helpful part of a new patient’s or family’s journey.
VS: Is there anything else you feel is important for people in the community/region to know about this amazing team?
KM: I would like the community to know that the Cancer Centre team of volunteers are truly amazing people! Coming from various backgrounds, they all give of themselves and their time so freely to help others and are rewarded with the smiles, hugs, and thank-you’s of patients and families. Speaking for the volunteers, I feel that we all find it very rewarding to be a part of a patients journey and find each and every one of them and their families, an inspiration to us – getting more back than what we give. Patients and families going through Cancer treatment are an inspiration to all of us, teaching us to take nothing for granted.
Christine agrees, “Volunteering at the Cancer Centre has given me a great experience and allowed me to meet wonderful and amazing people.”
Linda Hahn and Loretta Brassard