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esca handshake volunteers

by Natasha Scott, ESCA volunteer

My father-in-law’s two-year battle with cancer left him indigent. He was a successful lawyer with his own firm, a source of wisdom for his kids, a multi-marathon runner, and a volunteer for a community support group. For fun, he dabbled in the stock market and collected antique pens. Perhaps he smoked too much, or drank too much or perhaps genetics worked against him, but when cancer appeared and treatments began, he went from being independent and energetic to an emaciated version of his best self—too sick to work, to drive, unable to digest solid food, too tired to clean and sometimes bathe. His journey was not unique. Cancer can create a profound change in how you live, and it doesn’t give you a choice.

But my father-in-law was fortunate. He had many people in his life able to help him. Not everyone does and so thankfully there are associations like the English Speaking Cancer Association (ESCA) that can offer peer support for many patients who need help getting to appointments, filling prescriptions, grocery shopping or just walking the dog. However, peer support is not only for patients. It’s also there for the silent heroes who, either out of love or out of goodness, provide an unwavering support, for months or sometimes years, to someone diagnosed with cancer.

In Britain they’re called carers. In North America, they’re called caregivers. Collectively, they are the family, friends and neighbours who look after people who are ill. Many times care giving is a daunting role that one day is suddenly thrust upon them.

Jonathan Elzingre, RBL Swiss Branch Chairman (right) with James Pearsall, RBL Swiss Branch Committee Member (left) at the recent Expat-Expo fair in Geneva.

During the recent updating for the 10th Edition of Know-it-all passport®, we had a series of emails with the the Swiss Branch of the Royal British Legion. As we corresponded it became apparent that there are many potential areas of interest for our readers. Read on to find out more!

What is the Royal British Legion ?

The Royal British Legion, was founded in 1921 on the initiative of Field Marshal Earl Haig, following the First World War, which left thousands injured and scarred by their experiences. For those who returned home leaving millions dead, particularly on the battlefields of Northern France and Belgium, the world would never be the same. Haig’s aim was to provide dignity and self-respect through employment, particularly for the disabled.

There have been many casualties in conflicts since the two World Wars. The Legion is today the United Kingdom’s leading charity safeguarding the welfare, interests and memory of those who have served in the Armed Forces and their dependants. The Legion currently spends more than £73 million pounds providing welfare services and relieving distress. Support is given at every level – from advice about benefits to grants for household appliances, as well as the provision of nursing homes.


The non-profit organization, Serve The City Geneva, is looking for volunteers to help them out at the next big community event in their calendar: the Samedi de Partage.

Taking place on 4 June 2016, the Partage event is normally held twice a year and enables Serve The City Geneva's partner organizations to offer a hot meal to over 900 people every day.

About 40 to 50 helpers will be needed at the June event to collect food and personal care products in 4 stores across Geneva.  Shifts are generally 3 or 4 hours long, and you can sign up for 1 or 2 shifts.

So who is Serve The City Geneva and why are they involved in this event?  Volunteer, Gary Vannatter, told knowitall.ch,

"STC Geneva is an organization that aims to mobilise volunteers by partnering with existing organisations that are already serving the poor and marginalised. By mobilising resources in the form of volunteers to organizations, we believe we can impact individual lives and the communities we serve. The organization partners with homeless shelters, refugee centres, orphanages, and other associations, and invites volunteers to show kindness through practical help and support."

tryulybalance volunteering2

by Annette Ebbinhgaus, TrulyBalance

I had the pleasure to join some women recently on what I call a “back-to-rhythm” hike. It was a group of moms that I know through various friends and it was a quick little jaunt up and down La Dôle. A morning out to signal to our mind and body that the school year had begun again and it was time for us moms to get back to more of a rhythm.

This group was of course a group of expat women, some have been here for a long time, others not so long. We managed to cover many topics, and several in depth, as one does when you live this sort of transient life. We were quick to get to the good stuff in a conversation rather than stay on the surface. In this lifestyle we are never certain how long our friends will be living in the area so we make the most of every conversation.

hospicevolunteers 2013 2

At La Maison de Tara hospice volunteers are not an 'add on' but are at the very heart of their activities.  Without them the hospice could not exist. Volunteer work in the house includes simple patient support (feeding, companionship, changing soiled linen), providing support to families (this is often a big part of what we do) and generally being willing to help out with whatever is required.  A volunteer session lasts 5 hours and there are 3 per day: 8–13.00, 12.30–17.30 and 17.00-22.00.  The half hour overlap is to give a transmission of what has taken place in the house to the incoming team.   

A new (third) training course for English-speaking volunteers will begin in February 2014.  It will take place on one Saturday per month over a period of a year (see exact dates below). Volunteers receive over 100 hours of training in basic knowledge, practical knowhow and in 'how to be' with themselves, with residents and their families. Training is given by in-house and external people with deep experience of their subject. After completing the first three days of the course, it is possible to sign up for volunteer sessions in the house as a trainee, in parallel with the formal monthly course.