My life as an undercover volunteer
Secret Millionaire – Channel Nine 9.30pm 29 Oct 2009
Episode Four: Features Naomi Simson
I had determined to go back and check in on Maddison. She’d had her first (of twenty) radiation treatments. The Childrens Cancer Support Centre is having its monthly barbeque – I can help out with that. I arrive and finally get to meet Fran, Maddison’s Mum. When I walk inside, the very tired Maddy is in a pusher, her wise eyes look over at me and the sparkle with delight when she sees my toe nails still covered in polish. I explain that because I’ve been working in a kitchen I had to take off the finger nail polish – but the toes I will take home and show my own daughter.
Andrew, Maddy’s Dad explains the treatments of the last few days. And what is coming up for the next week. Appointment after appointment – here, there and everywhere. It is such a hard work even getting between hospitals.
I meet Bill the CCS CEO, an ex corporate guy who has been doing this for four years. He explains that there is nothing more rewarding than knowing that you helped a family keep their home [Caring for a child with cancer is a 24 hour job, there is often not even time to do the washing, a parent most often will leave their job and come to Brisbane – Motels are expensive and to live there for a year not practical – if it was not for the free accommodation then they could literally be destitute.]
Parents have no life, and having a sibling at the facility is very difficult. The people who are here are from all parts of Queensland and northern NSW. Many leave the siblings at home – with a grandparent, or one parent will stay at home and battle on with a job and childcare. 84% of the marriages of parents who have a child with cancer will not survive.
It is so lovely to speak to more of the parents, the partners who are not there all week, to meet the volunteers, I see Marg again. Brian, who is both on the committee and a volunteer (cooks a good barbeque) and I have a quiet chat over the grill – he worries that as the baby boomer like himself (55+) are no longer able to volunteer – who will? “Young people are so busy” he says, “they don’t make time for others. Yet Australia’s support network runs on the back of volunteers.”
I think about our own family – what do we do for others; generously. I think of my children who were not even in the scouts, have they ever really done anything for other people, without expecting anything in return?
I meet many of the other parents, chat with children… but I must leave. I have a long way to get back to the Gold Coast.
I have so much to think about – I think about the value of money, the value of time, the value of listening… Pete my husband left home with $30 in his pocket, I have worked at jobs since I was 14, in toy shops, bars, even a dry cleaner. I was fortunate I could work. We have worked hard and created an ‘asset base’ I’ve been married to an accountant for almost two decades, I’m beginning to sound like him. So as I consider each of the places I have visited I think how could I assist them create an ongoing income stream.
Bill at CCS and Rod at 139 had lamented how difficult it is to raise money in these tough times. In fact the charity dollar is very scarce and the charities ‘compete’ fiercely for the fewer dollars that there are.
Families with kids with cancer have their whole world thrown upside down. Fundraising is tough – and there are so many things needed. What could I do that would last for a long time?
139 Club serves so many, many people and the numbers are on the rise. Judy has reminded me of people’s prejudice – society would rather not see the homeless or mentally disabled. There is an entrepreneurial idea in there somewhere. I just need to bring it out?
I think long and hard, I miss my family terribly, I wonder if they will understand the sort of experience that I am having. I wonder how we the Simson family can contribute long term to others.
I see similarities between all the organizations and RedBalloon – they are all driven tirelessly with a clear sense of shared purpose. That shared sense of purpose and passion is infectious… knowing that people do want to change the world.
But to change the world we need the means.