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Spotlight On Aldyth Carrick

Macmillan@West Lothian Information & Support Service Volunteer

Macmillan@West Lothian Information & Support Service Volunteer

I started volunteering with Macmillan in West Lothian after I retired, as I wanted to do something useful for the wider community. I picked Macmillan as I saw that the service was just starting up and I thought it would be good to be involved from the beginning. As is true for so many people these days, I had lost a very close friend to cancer and had had my own cancer experience, so I know what a difficult time it can be when going through treatment and recovery. I already knew a bit about Macmillan and what they did, but I have learned a lot more since I started volunteering.

I joined the Macmillan volunteers in November 2016 for some excellent training and started attending sessions in the hubs in January 2017. There are always two of us in the hubs, so we get to know the other volunteers well and we can work together or separately if we are busy. Macmillan provide additional training sessions for volunteers, all of which is really useful, delivered in enjoyable face to face sessions. West Lothian Council also provide additional useful training, some face to face and some online, but always worthwhile and interesting. 

When volunteering in the hub, we simply welcome the customer in, offer them a tea or coffee and biscuit and encourage them to talk. We can refer them to other services and organisations, including Macmillan benefits advice. The customers can be people with cancer or their friends and family, everyone has their own worries about the situation and it can be helpful for them to talk about what is on their mind. We have some Macmillan booklets and leaflets that cover most aspects of cancer to give people. If we don't have any specific booklet, we can show people how to find the information online or get a leaflet. We listen sympathetically to what our customers tell us about their situation and then talk to them about it. Sometimes several family members attend together, sometimes they come separately, whatever suits is fine by us. Some people choose to attend our sessions regularly and we feel that we are following their journey through the ups and downs. But other times someone may attend early on and then come back and give us a surprise visit many months later and share their good news. It is wonderful to see them coming back looking so well. For me, I really like to see someone who approached the hub looking stressed and worried but who looks more relaxed, perhaps even smiling, as they leave us. That can be very satisfying.

Under normal circumstances, I generally volunteer for a morning a week, but we also have Macmillan team meetings every couple of months and there can be half day training sessions too. So it doesn't require a big time commitment and there is never any pressure to give time. Unfortunately the hubs have had to close due to Covid19, but there is still help available via phone and email. The volunteers are encouraged to make suggestions to improve the sessions and are really well supported by the Macmillan team in the office. It is nice to feel part of a team, being appreciated and involved.