Hello, my name is Ora Vidak, and I have been a volunteer with Leukaemia & Blood Cancer New Zealand for 20 years.
I first became aware of LBC, – then known as the Leukaemia and Blood Foundation, – after the death of my darling daughter. Back in those days, a diagnosis of blood cancer didn’t leave you many treatment options, and Julie-Anne was just 3 ½ years old when she passed away following a short but fierce fight against leukaemia.
When I first got involved with LBC, the organisation was tiny – with just two employees based in Auckland. I helped out on a small committee of volunteers who met regularly and helped to raise funds to buy equipment and resources for the blood cancer unit at Auckland City Hospital. If you go to the hospital today, you’ll still see a fridge there that we helped to buy! We also helped to provide wheelchairs and easy chairs for people to use.
Our volunteer team also helped with the 100 Hole Golf Marrowthon Challenge where participants played 100 holes of golf in one day to support Kiwis living with blood cancer. This event ran annually for over 10 years and I’m proud to say that I was the first woman to complete all 100 holes.
Having had my own experience with blood cancer, I know how life-changing this diagnosis can be. For me it was a frightening and confusing time, and so I like to try and help others and make the environment for those going through a similar experience, a bit easier and a bit more comfortable.
Some patients don’t always have family or friends to rely on, so I have also helped to transport patients to their medical appointments, and just be a bit of company for them during their treatment. Sometimes people like to chat and talk through how they are feeling. Sometimes it’s just enough to sit with someone when they are going through a difficult time – just to let them know that they are not alone.
And it helps me too. I’ve made some amazing friends along the way, and I feel happy knowing that I have been there for others.
In recent years I’ve also taken the lead on the ‘Meals for Carers’ programme. Myself and a team of other volunteers spend time preparing healthy balanced meals for families and caregivers who may have limited time and budget.
I love what I do, and you’ll often see me delivering meals or sitting with patients at Middlemore Hospital, or at Starship Hospital, where I also help out as a visitor for the children.
I volunteer because I believe that no-one should have to face blood cancer or any serious illness alone.
When my daughter was diagnosed with leukaemia, my husband and I were lucky to have the support of family and friends to help us through the difficult times. But I know not everyone is so fortunate, and I believe that we all have a duty to help others in our communities who need our support, which is why I like to volunteer my time.
I have also helped fundraise for LBC because I am so passionate about finding a cure for blood cancer, and to know more about the causes of blood cancer. Research is the only way we can find this out, and LBC is the major funder of haematology research in New Zealand.
Personally, I think it’s wonderful to see how LBC has developed over the last 20 years. When I first got involved with the organisation, it was a tiny volunteer led Auckland based charity. Now it’s become a national organisation reaching out to thousands of people each year, and I am so proud to have been a part of this.
I’m told that I’m LBC’s longest serving volunteer, but I don’t see myself about to retire any time soon, and I would like to thank everyone who has joined me over the years by giving their time and their donations to support this amazing organisation.