Joan Swift may be in her 80s, but age isn’t about to slow this passionate volunteer. Swift started working with the Cancer Society in 1978, after experiencing the loss of several family members, and has been immersed in the organisation ever since. Since the early ’90s, Swift has been involved with Look Good, Feel Better – the international charity dedicated to boosting the self-esteem of people undergoing treatment for cancer – and has amassed a number of honours for her work. In 2005, Swift was awarded a Queen’s Service Medal for her voluntary work; more recently, she received recognition at the Pride of NZ awards in the lifetime achievement category.
“When I was advised I had been nominated, it was such a surprise. I don’t do what I do for reward or recognition,” Swift says. “To win the Upper North Island Lifetime Achievement Award with so many excellent finalists was an amazing feeling and then to be asked if I would accept nomination for the national shortlist was incredible.”
While Swift says receiving recognition for her volunteer work is a huge honour, her focus is always firmly on the charity and the people she’s helping. “My nomination and award has really helped the profile of the charity, and it’s wonderful to be part of such an amazing organisation,” Swift adds. Contributing to the growth and success of Look Good, Feel Better is one of Swift’s volunteering highlights. “We now have the facilities to reach so many more people and enable them to enjoy a morning of pampering and one-on-one attention by a caring volunteer,” Swift explains. “Our first year we had 140 ladies on the programme and now we’re over the 3000 mark, which also includes teenagers and men’s workshops.”
As for what has motivated Swift’s unwavering support over the past 25 years, she explains that it’s the confidence Look Good, Feel Better is able to instil in cancer patients that keeps her going.“A great start to the day is receiving a letter from someone we’ve worked with saying that we’ve given her back her confidence, enabling her to go to the supermarket – whereas prior, when she got to the door she felt everyone was looking at her and knew she had cancer, so she could not go into the store and shop.
“To see the difference in the ladies attending the workshops, arriving a little hesitant and not sure of what to expect and then see them walking out the door with a smile on their faces and an aura of confidence in their stature.“In a small way I have played a part in someone’s life that has helped brighten their day and that is very rewarding.”