After my stem cell transplant in 2014, I took early retirement from my job as a chief executive, but at the age of 62 I wasn’t ready to retire from my active life.
I can talk for England!
I’d become very familiar with Anthony Nolan’s work through my transplant process, and looked at volunteering opportunities after I had recovered sufficiently enough.
Given my donor was a 17-year-old, it made sense to try and encourage more young people to join the register, just like they did. I wanted to try something new after a lifetime of working in a different field, and to thank and inspire young people given one of them saved my life. As anyone who knows me would testify, I can talk for England so it’s a natural fit!
I began volunteering at the end of 2014 as a Hero Project Speaker. I also joined the Patients Panel, where I’ve commented on a number of publications and sat on various consultative panels. Last year, I was the first volunteer in the Peer to Peer Mentoring Service to be allocated a patient to support. And finally, I was honoured to be asked to be a guest speaker at the Carol Concert, and since then have also presented to the charity’s Board of Trustees and Marrow South.
Saving lives as I type
I’m incapable of saying no to any request from Anthony Nolan!
This charity saved my life and it’s saving lots of others as I type. People who work for Anthony Nolan are youthful, professional, and enthusiastic. Everyone genuinely seems to buy into the charity’s clear mission of finding the most suitable stem cell donors to save lives. It sounds a bit soppy but the staff really do seem to live their values.
I can’t pick a favourite volunteering role. I love going to schools. Sixth formers can be challenging to engage, but there’s tremendous satisfaction in being able to hold their attention and get questions from them. My story inevitably grabs them as they can relate to somebody just like them doing something amazing.
Making a real, tangible difference
However, supporting my patient in my peer-to-peer role is probably the most personally satisfying. Being able to engage personally and help them along the way has been great. They’ve told me that the support has been invaluable, and I’m pretty sure they aren’t just being polite!
I volunteer for my own personal satisfaction and to make a real, tangible difference. When I stand in front of a group of kids, I can’t help but wonder which of them might save somebody’s life. But I also volunteer because Anthony Nolan genuinely values, cares for, listens to, and supports its volunteers.
You can’t do anything without being thanked for it at least twice, and the first line from someone at Anthony Nolan isn’t, “Can you do this…” but, “How are you?”. I do wonder whether they have a knack of recruiting really great people, or whether they recruit ordinary people and make them great. Probably a bit of both.