To find out, we talked to Theo Platings about her work for Cancer Support France Languedoc.
Theo Platings has lived in France for 26 years and, fortunately for CSF, she discovered them just as she was slowing down work-wise and had more time on her hands. Add in the fact that Theo is a fabulously capable and ‘French life-experienced’ woman and you have an absolute boon of a CSF volunteer! Theo first heard about CSF through a friend who was a fundraiser, and was keen to help out in any way she could. She applied as a volunteer in November 2014, participating in a training program in March 2015. She has been active since then.
Now, ‘active’ is a pertinent word here, because one of the integral roles a volunteer can take on for CSF is one of ‘active listener’; essentially just being there and, well, listening. Not giving advice or judging or leading, but being present and understanding. Being an active listener is just one of many much-needed roles to fill. Volunteers can help in numerous ways, according to their experience, available time and what they have to offer; even just having a driving licence is useful in order to help patients get to appointments, treatment sessions etc.
CSF supports not just the patient, but the family too
Whether someone needs support because they have a family member suffering with cancer in France or even abroad, CSF can step in and provide that shoulder to lean on. Partners, children, parents… anyone affected by cancer can call upon CSF for help. Everyone is welcome at the regular Drop-in Days, where people affected by cancer can have a Reiki session or their hands pampered, buy second-hand books or play Scrabble, and have a bite to eat. There’s a certain ‘conscience collective’ that binds the participants together and enables them to talk without encumbrance about their cancer experiences.
You don’t need any special qualifications
All you need is kindness and empathy. Although for the linguistic services, where volunteers accompany patients to translate in medical appointments, a very good level of French is naturally required. These medical advocacy roles include appointment making, accompaniment to the consultations or treatment sessions and writing reports afterwards. This is where Theo helps out the most – drawing on her in-depth experience of French life and administration and speaking fluent French. She volunteers in such a medical advocacy role, and also liaises with notaries, dealing with the legal aspects for patients, such as inheritance issues. Her role is not to give advice, but to accompany, to provide accurate information and to carry out patients’ wishes. All active listeners participate in a two-day training program to help prepare them for their role, plus three days a year of ongoing training.
Fundraising takes many different forms; from regular second-hand clothing sales and book sales to cycling events. Every cent earned is a precious resource that goes towards supporting cancer patients and their families.
Volunteering for CSF is an excellent way to get out there and meet people, get involved in ex-pat life, whilst doing enormous good at the same time. There are so many different ways to help that would not immediately spring to mind – how about marshaling at the annual CSF Cycle for Life ride (this year running from the 22nd to the 25th of June, starting in Carcassonne and concluding in Sète) Or being a driver to transport luggage from one stop to another for those completing the whole ride? Really, anyone can help!
If you’d like to volunteer with CSF and/or attend one of their bi-annual induction days, please contact CSF directly on www.csf-languedoc.com or email firstname.lastname@example.org or call the Helpline on 04 67 44 87 06
Nicole is a bilingual Brit from Cambridge who has been living in the Languedoc since 2002 and is Renestance's Administrative Assistance Coordinator. She knows how to get things done and can find the key contacts, having worked in real estate, managed two businesses of her own, and started a large social group for English-speakers in the area.
All articles by: Nicole Hammond