East Sussex cancer volunteers shortlisted for awards in the run up to Volunteers Week 2023

With Volunteers Week starting next week (1 - 7 June), two Sussex residents have been shortlisted for awards at the Macmillan Cancer Support ‘Thanks to You’ Volunteers Awards Ceremony taking place in Birmingham next week.
Victor (left) and Geoff (right), recognised by Macmillan Cancer Support in their Volunteer Awards 2023Victor (left) and Geoff (right), recognised by Macmillan Cancer Support in their Volunteer Awards 2023
Victor (left) and Geoff (right), recognised by Macmillan Cancer Support in their Volunteer Awards 2023

They are Victor de Giorgio from Brighton who volunteers at the Macmillan Horizon Centre and in the haematology ward at the Royal Sussex County Hospital, and Geoff Stonebanks from Seaford.

Victor received cancer support from Macmillan after he was diagnosed with kidney cancer in 2016 which he describes as ‘second-to-none’ and wanted to make sure other people with cancer could experience it too. So, in 2021, he joined the Macmillan Horizon Centre in Brighton as an information and support volunteer, and quickly became an indispensable and uplifting part of their service.

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Geoff Brown, manager of the Macmillan Horizon Centre said: “As well as using his compassion and emotional intelligence to assess people’s needs and provide a listening ear within the centre, he also provides support in the local haematology day unit and haematology ward. On top of this, Victor co-facilitates a cancer support group for men which provides a safe space for them to open up and share their feelings. When Victor volunteers at the Centre he lifts the spirit of all the other volunteers and staff and brings an aura of compassion and kindness that rubs off on us all. He is such a valuable member of our team, and we are delighted he is being recognised in this way.”

Victor said: “When I talk to people with cancer, I remember the anxiety that I experienced during my own cancer journey, and I know how they are feeling. I got the support I needed, and I want to pass that on to others.

“Sometimes I’m just there to listen but other times I can help people access specific things such as the wig and hair loss appointments, benefits advice or free complementary therapies available at the centre. After hospital appointments people often just want to go home but once they have visited the Horizon Centre, they go back. They realise what a comfort it is and see that it is unrelated to the clinical environment of the hospital. Even though I volunteer for Macmillan, Macmillan still is doing a lot for me.”

Geoff Stonebanks is a finalist in the ‘Outstanding Supporter’ category and has used his passion for gardening and his amazing planning and organisational skills to raise over £110,000 for the Macmillan Horizon Centre over the last twelve years. He started fundraising for Macmillan by opening his multi-award-winning garden to the public and went on to set up the annual Macmillan Coastal Garden Trail running from Seaford to Brighton.

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As well as inspiring countless other local gardeners to open up their own plots for Macmillan, Geoff also secured the support of TV gardener Christine Walkden as the trail’s patron. Geoff bakes his own cakes to sell at his open garden events and has so far served an astonishing 9,000 portions and brewed more than 12,000 cuppas. Geoff was also named a Coronation Champion in April this year for his services to volunteering.

“Over the years, so many garden visitors have told me how they or their families have benefitted from the Horizon Centre, and that’s a big driver for me to keep fundraising,” says Geoff.Macmillan Horizon Centre manager Geoff Brown adds: “We are so grateful to Victor, Geoff and all of our fantastic volunteers without whom we simply could not provide the support we do for people living with cancer in the area. We wish them the best of luck at the awards ceremony although they are both winners in our eyes.

“If anyone would like to join the volunteering team at the centre, we’d love to hear from you. We are particularly looking for information and support volunteers like Victor and people to help us in the café as well as other roles.”

To find out more about volunteering opportunities at Macmillan visit: volunteering.macmillan.org.uk