It was in 1992 when a friend of mine, Martha Brown OAM, knocked on the door of my small general practice in Orange, NSW. Martha asked if I could be the doctor for a camp run by Camp Quality — the charity that provides support to children with cancer and their families, including retreats. I jumped at the chance to help out. It was a large camp of about 150 kids and volunteers and lasted eight days. Although the camp was exhausting, I revelled in the chance to work my butt off to help make a difference to some of these kids. Every day, medications had to be supervised, dressings changed, and cuts and scratches examined. Tummy-aches, homesick kids and volunteers injured from mucking around with the children all needed medical assistance. A medical team was on duty 24/7. During the camp, a teenage girl had a chat with me. She had been on chemotherapy and was concerned about her future fertility. Basically, I had a little talk with her using what knowledge I had, and she seemed quite happy with that. I didn’t think much of it. Unfortunately, several months later I heard the poor girl had died. Her mother got in touch with me and thanked me for having that talk with her because it was something that was really playing on her mind and she had been too shy to bring it up with her own doctor. Medicine is a caring profession and we should remember that an opportunity to help is an opportunity to enrich our lives. To be blessed with medical skills is one thing, to make the best use of them is what we need to aspire to. It’s inspiring to witness what kids with cancer endure and how resilient they can be. When it comes to volunteering, I find that I’m most appreciated for just being myself. It’s not hard to volunteer — just being there makes a difference. Doing what I can and knowing what I can’t do is of the essence. It also certainly makes a change from my everyday work as a GP. It gives me a chance to meet some amazing people, and I’m not only talking about the kids. Many of the other volunteers remain lifelong friends. I have volunteered for Camp Quality for 26 years now and we are always in need of medical volunteers. I have also volunteered in Africa and at other events in Orange. There aren’t many organisations who wouldn’t welcome the help of a doctor.


Dr David Howe
Orange, NSW