Macmillan at Glasgow Libraries Volunteer Maureen

3 December 2018

What an interesting and enjoyable 5 years it has been since I got ill health retirement from my job in Early Years Education. Having found myself with time on my hands and wanting to do something worthwhile with my time the internet search began for volunteering opportunities in Glasgow.

Maureen In GorbalsThere were lots of opportunities from various organisations however one stood out for me - Information and Support Volunteer with Macmillan @ Glasgow Libraries. The Macmillan brand sells itself but here was an innovative new initiative which was committed to offering emotional and financial support to people affected by cancer in a non-clinical drop in setting in their local library. It ticked all the boxes for me and the two day training programme allowed me to transfer my existing skills, develop new skills and increase my knowledge around cancer to help me deliver a service which supports people and their families who are affected by cancer.

I have been volunteering with Macmillan @ Glasgow Libraries since 2013. I have volunteered in both Langside and Gorbals libraries. In 2014 I was part of the Lead Volunteer pilot and continue to be Lead Volunteer in Gorbals Library. I also volunteer at various outreach sessions which supports engagement with a diverse group of people and raises awareness of our services. At most outreach sessions we are fortunate enough to have a private area we can take people to if they wish some 1:1 support and offer the same support and signposting as we would if we were in a library.

I feel privileged to be part of the Macmillan @ Glasgow Libraries team and have always felt supported and valued by the staff team, fellow volunteers and library staff. To be part of a team which has a holistic approach to making a difference is amazing.

As a volunteer there are there are regular opportunities to learn and develop through the Learning Development Programmes and Development Sessions. There is also the opportunity to be part of focus groups to help shape the service and support managing change.

Being there for someone who has taken that brave step to come into the library or come up and chat to you at outreach, putting their trust in you to share their fears expectations and hopes for the future is very humbling, and to feel that you may have made a difference no matter how small is the best feeling ever!

Every experience is rewarding however there are a couple I would like to share with you. A lady and a gentleman who are regular users of service at Gorbals had been coming in at separate times both post-surgery and treatment. One day one was leaving as other coming in and we all had cup of tea and chat. It got round to talking about feet and how I had accessed podiatry at the Beatson for the lady and the gentleman said he would have loved to have gone but transport was a problem for him. I observed as the lady and gentleman continued their conversation and she made the kind offer to him of a lift to and from his podiatry appointments if he was able to arrange them for the same time as hers. They travelled together for 6 treatment sessions and had a cuppa at Cancer Support Scotland - they are still friends and still come into the library for support.

The second experience I would like to share is one of a young family. The wife came into the library for support after her husband had been given a terminal diagnosis. At the library we supported her emotionally and referred to Improving the Cancer Journey and Helping Matters (as it turned out I ended up being their Helping Matters volunteer as I volunteer with them once a week). Through chats in the library and the family home, the wife said how nice it would be if they could have a family holiday but wasn’t sure how they manage financially. We discussed a Macmillan Grant her husband had recently got one for new clothes and wasn’t eligible for another. I made a couple of phone calls and discovered Scottish Cancer Support had two caravans at Craig Tara Haven Holiday Park for a reasonable cost.

I then contacted Roy Castle Lung Cancer Foundation and got a grant application form sent out to help fund it. The family had a lovely week in Craig Tara during the school holidays in July. Sadly the young man passed away in December. What a lovely family memory and that for me is what making a difference all is about. The lady continues to come along to the library for support and a cup of tea.