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Volunteer takes on series of fundraising challenges in memory of ‘a very special lady’

Paula Clarke and Henrietta (Hetty) Hughes in Llanelli town centre

A Macmillan Carmarthenshire Buddy service volunteer is taking on a series of fundraising challenges for Macmillan Cancer Support in memory of the lady that she helped.

Paula Clarke, helped by family and friends, will be at the St Elli Shopping Centre in Llanelli on Saturday 7 August between 10am and 3pm, and will be offering a number of child-friendly activities including face painting, colouring, flags and balloons in return for donations to the charity that supports people living with cancer.

Paula will also raise money through car boot sales on Saturday 31 July and Saturday 14 August at Mecca Bingo car park in Swansea. In September, Paula will take on a 13-mile Macmillan Jurassic Coast Mighty Hike challenge in Dorset.

Paula from Carway, has been a Macmillan Support Buddy for more than six years. The service matches someone living with cancer with a trained volunteer who can offer emotional support, as well signposting to other Macmillan support and services.

When Paula and Henrietta Hughes (known as Hetty) were matched, the two women got on very well, right from the start. Sadly, 95-year-old Hetty died in May of this year.

Reflecting on the supportive relationship that they developed, Paula, said:” Hetty was a very special lady, and it was a real pleasure to support her for so many years.

“Hetty was still managing to live in her own home even though she faced many health struggles. She was also losing her eyesight and found it hard to walk far, so the only time she could go out was with a family member, friends, or myself. That is why Tuesday afternoons when we got together were so special to her. Hetty and I would head into town and do a bit of shopping and a few errands, then we’d stop for cup of tea and cake. Sometimes we would meet up with one of her friends which she loved.

“She said she really looked forward to seeing me every week. How rewarding as a volunteer is that? That makes you feel so special and valued.”

The pandemic meant that Paula could no longer support Hetty in person, but the pair kept in close contact by telephone. Paula said: “Hetty died at the end of May and I so miss our phone chats. She would always end the call with a ‘God bless’ and I didn’t realise how much that meant to me, until it was gone.

“So I can’t think of a better way to honour her memory than by dedicating the Jurassic Coast Mighty Hike and my few fundraising days to raise as much as I can to help Macmillan Cancer Support continue the fantastic work that it does.”

It was the death of her father from pancreatic cancer that originally led Paula to begin fundraising and then eventually to volunteering for Macmillan. Speaking about her passion for volunteering for Macmillan, Paula, said: “I have been a Carmarthenshire Support Buddy now for six years and I love the role.

“I started volunteering for Macmillan because of my own father dying from cancer over 18 years ago and since then I have lost many other family members and very dear friends to cancer. That I can directly help other families while they are dealing with cancer is so rewarding.

“From the very beginning the training we receive from Macmillan is second to none. It helps us to understand our Buddy role and builds our knowledge and confidence for us to be able to help the many families cope with the day to day struggles that they face after they receive a cancer diagnosis.”

Paula is looking forward to the coastal hiking challenge of the Macmillan Jurassic Coast Mighty Hike in September. She said: “My sister lives in Dorset and we don’t get many opportunities to spend time together so this hike will be lovely quality time to have a fantastic day out – and a good old chat!”

Macmillan Head of Services in Wales, Richard Pugh said: “We wish Paula all the very best with her fundraising to raise money for Macmillan to help people in Wales living with cancer.

“We are really proud of our Macmillan Buddies as we know that they make a real difference to the lives of the people that they support, whether that support is face-to-face or offered over the phone as has happened as the service adapted to the restrictions from the pandemic. It is clear that Hetty relished their weekly meetings but also that Paula herself found her volunteer role to be very rewarding.”