Having cancer can feel lonely if you don’t have anyone to talk to who understands. Getting stuck into a new activity with people in similar situations can be hugely beneficial, and that’s exactly what’s on offer at a new volunteer-led service in Cumbria. Volunteer News went to find out more.
Carlisle Our Story is a Macmillan emotional support service with a difference. Its weekly sessions give people with cancer the chance to chat to volunteers and others going through similar experiences. What’s more, they also give people the chance to discover local and family history.
Sheila, one of the service’s lead volunteers, explains where the innovative idea for the service came from.
'We just wanted to offer something new and different to people with cancer,' she says, 'The idea of weekly sessions exploring history was a bit of a lightbulb moment. Carlisle has a rich variety of local history, so there’s a lot to discover. Also, when I was recovering from leukaemia myself, I started to research my family tree. I found it fascinating, but I remember thinking how great it would have been to have done it with the support of other people. Thanks to our trained volunteers – including one lady who is an expert in local history – that’s exactly what we’re able to provide.'
Those who come along to the sessions aren’t under any obligation to join in with the history activities. Sheila says that many simply pop along for a cup of tea and a chat, and to be signposted to other sources of Macmillan support.
'While some people may just come to talk, others leave with the full-on genealogy bug. We’ve had people come along because they’ve felt socially isolated and just wanted a chat, but now they’re really interested in researching their family history and can’t get enough of it. They’ve really come out of their shells. Everybody gets something different from the sessions and that’s the beauty of it. As volunteers, we are all so glad to know we’re helping.'
Carlisle Our Story is a perfect example of the unique volunteer-led services that Macmillan supports – and of the range of opportunities available to get involved in.
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