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Wednesday, 20 May 2020

Having cared for both his parents throughout their cancer journey, Garth Howard knows first-hand the importance of having access to treatment services.

After his father passed from stomach cancer, Garth also looked after his mother from the granny flat in his backyard and spent six weeks in Sydney accommodation while she underwent radiotherapy for bowel cancer.

At the time, there was one bus that would take patients early in the morning and return late at night, which would often mean long waiting times between both treatment and transport.

Drawing on this experience, Garth has spent the past 8 years volunteering with Cancer Council NSW to provide support and transport services to other people undergoing cancer treatment in the state’s Northern region.

Along with helping out with fundraising events and organising community speakers, Garth’s main role is a driver for the Transport to Treatment program where he can sometimes travel up to 400km a day transporting 3 or 4 patients to and from their appointments.

In recognition of his dedication and outstanding volunteer work, Garth was awarded the Newcastle Permanent Charitable Foundation’s 2020 Chairman’s Medal.

Garth Howard
2020 Chairman's medal recipient Garth Howard
Introducing this year's Chairman's Medal recipient, Garth Howard.

Established by the Charitable Foundation in 2018 to honour the late Michael Slater, who was both Chairman of Newcastle Permanent Building Society and Newcastle Permanent Charitable Foundation for almost 10 years as well as a prolific volunteer for more than 50 years, the Medal acknowledges the contribution of an outstanding individual volunteer to their organisation’s work.

“To be awarded the Chairman’s Medal this year was a big surprise to me as I didn’t even know I’d been nominated. I don’t believe I’ve done anything out of the ordinary. I just do this to help other people, so to be acknowledged in this way is a real pleasure,” Garth said.

“Volunteering provides an insight into other people’s lives. Sometimes it can be good, other times people can be dealing with challenging news or circumstances, so it can be reassuring for them to have someone to chat to and we can help point them in the direction of other services.

“The Cancer Council is an excellent place to work and the Transport to Treatment service makes a huge difference to people undergoing treatment, as a lot of the people have no other means of transport to a treatment centre.

“Personally I get a sense of achievement from being able to help people in their times of need. It’s a pleasure to be able to make life a bit easier for patients undergoing their cancer journey and we get thanked all the time by our clients and their families.”

Being considered high-risk himself, Garth undergoes regular screenings and recommends other people do the same.

“What I’ve learnt is that no one is bullet proof from cancer, but if you can catch it early, there’s a better chance of survival, so I’d encourage everyone to get tested,” Garth said.

"Garth is an amazing man and basically a jack-of-all-trades in our Coffs Harbour office. He’s extremely humble, thoughtful and very caring," said Cancer Council NSW Community Lead Northern, Caitlyn Feldmann.

Cancer Council NSW Community Lead Northern, Caitlyn Feldmann, said Garth’s contribution to the community goes well beyond his rostered hours.

“Volunteers are critical to Cancer Council NSW and make up 80% of our organisation’s workforce. We’re very lucky to have people like Garth who give up their time and dedicate their expertise and skills to us. Garth is an amazing man and basically a jack-of-all-trades in our Coffs Harbour office. He’s extremely humble, thoughtful and very caring. He’s really considerate but also considered in his approach to things – so he’s a great person to have on our team,” Caitlyn said.

“We’re very excited that Garth’s work has been recognised outside of Cancer Council. We’ve already got a fantastic partnership with the Charitable Foundation, so for one of our volunteers to receive the Chairman’s Medal is such an amazing accolade for Garth and our volunteer force.

In addition to the accolade, the Charitable Foundation also provided a $5,000 grant to Cancer Council NSW for further volunteer development.

“Unfortunately our fundraising has suffered a great deal since COVID-19. We’ve had to cancel all of our forward facing fundraising events and asked our volunteers over the age of 60 to take a break during this time as they are at higher risk themselves,” Caitlyn said.

“The $5,000 from the Charitable Foundation will go a long way towards providing our volunteers with further training down the track and to ensure that they are thanked as Cancer Council couldn’t do the work it does without them.”

The Chairman’s Medal is awarded annually during National Volunteer Week in May to a volunteer from a charity that has previously received funding from the Charitable Foundation.

Read more about the Chairman's Medal


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