Call me a cynic, but I've never been a fan of Weeks. Not the grouping of seven consecutive days and the whole Gregorian calendar thing, I'm talking about the proliferation of 'Awareness Weeks'. There's so many of them - and some are so obscure - they all just blur into one. And don't get me started on International days. Did you know that 8 August is International Cat Day? Yes, this four-legged walking, caterwauling, YouTube-owning tribute to all things vainglorious has its own international day of recognition; an animal so secure in its own magnificence it knows with an iron certainty Carly Simon wasn't singing about James Taylor, or even Warren Beatty, but them, and them alone. Cats don't need an international day, they own every bloody day of the year.
Not everyone is as obsessed with self promotion as our ever-present feline companions though; some people just toil away in the background, never looking for recognition or praise, too busy getting the job done. With this in mind, I'd like to talk about Volunteers' week (1 - 7 June), which celebrates the contributions of a group of people - who in my book at least - deserve every scrap of recognition they get (and then some). Prostate Cancer UK has 1,594 volunteers, and they are as much a part of the team as our staff.
In the last year, volunteers gave us 16,050 hours of their time, filling not the unforgiving minute but the last 12 months with nearly two years of distance run. Volunteering across all four nations, our volunteers fill 18 different roles within Prostate Cancer UK. Some volunteers use their own experience of prostate cancer to provide one-to-one support to diagnosed men and their families. Others are trained to give awareness talks, and go forth across the UK, spreading the word at corporate functions, rotary clubs, football grounds, and special events.
Some of our volunteers brave the media and help promote our work locally and nationally in the press; many help us influence politicians and decision makers. A lot of our volunteers are passionate fundraisers, and have helped us wring the most out of our partnership with The Football League, shaking buckets at football grounds up and down the country. Nearly a third of our volunteers take on more than one role.
But they also save lives. And I don't mean they contribute to saving lives solely through raising the money that leads to breakthroughs in research, or improvements in treatment, but actually save lives, Vinnie Jones #Hardandfast style. Check out this video.
Ivan and Pat's story is one we've captured and shared, but Ivan's experience is not unique. The likelihood of Ivan repaying the favour and doing the same kindness to another fellow stranger is high. Partly because our volunteers are so active, mainly as we know knowledge of prostate cancer (and who is at greater risk) in the UK is still pretty poor. But with men like Pat and Ivan champing at the bit to change this, and get as many men as possible up to speed, we continue to make inroads in awareness.
I know I'm biased (and I'm sure other organisations who work with volunteers will say the same) but I have never worked with a group of people whose commitment to the cause is so absolute, who give their time and energy so freely, and see weekends and bank holidays as just another day of the week in which to help. They fundraise, raise awareness, share their knowledge and experience, and talk from the heart. And they save lives.
Our volunteers are amazing. Every day of the year.