Older People Living with Cancer

Peer advocates supporting older people affected by cancer

Northumberland’s good news on volunteer recruitment

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Carolyn Reynolds tells us about successful volunteer recruitment in Northumberland:

When we at Age UK Northumberland were planning the launch of our Cancer, Older People and Advocacy project in partnership with Macmillan Cancer Support, we knew we’d be looking for some pretty special volunteers with the skills and experience to help us really deliver.


We thought carefully about our approach to recruitment for the three very different areas of the very large and diverse area we have to cover.  We’re starting in the North of the county where there’s lots of gorgeous rurality and coastline (and plenty of sheep), but not much in the way of transport links – support services are pretty thinly spread.

Fortunately our local press is very well regarded and popular so it made sense to hatch a plan with one local journalist to interest him in the project. It wasn’t difficult. This is a human interest story touching the lives of a great many local readers, so he was keen to help.

So we put together a feature which brought together the local people who were running the project, some great photographs, a case study which explained exactly why the service is so important, and a story from our Project Manager explaining exactly the sort of people and experiences that would make for a brilliant volunteer team. I made it as easy as possible for the journalist to put together a decent feature without having to do too much extra work or research.


To our huge delight, we were given a whole page to feature the story in two titles, the Northumberland Gazette and Berwick Advertiser. Both Alnwick and Berwick are community focussed market towns, home to lots of early retired people.  However, competition for good volunteers can be particularly fierce. We didn’t want to poach from other organisations, but we knew there would be other good people out there.

Now for the good news – our plan worked! We were delighted to see a full page of coverage in our target geographical area, and a week later 12 volunteers had come forward. They’re a really diverse bunch but happily each and every one is exactly the sort of volunteer we had hoped to attract. People who’ve had personal experience of cancer and of caring for people with cancer. People who’ve recovered from cancer and who want to give something back. People who really understand some of the difficulties people coping with a cancer diagnosis face.

Gazette photo

Of course, one size won’t fit all when it comes to volunteer recruitment in other areas of Northumberland. I’ve got alternative plans to attract volunteers in the very different demographic of the urban south of the county which is one of the UK’s most deprived ex-industrial areas and in the rural west – farming communities and commuter belt villages.

But for now, we have friendly journalists on board who are delighted to continue to report on our progress in at least one of our target areas. Result!

Carolyn Reynolds, Volunteer Co-ordinator, Age UK/Macmillan Cancer, Older People and Advocacy Project


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