Over the last 11 years, this small rural community has raised over half a million dollars to take some of the stress out of life with cancer.
The green shirts of the Bega Valley brigade gathered recently, motivated by their ever-present need to fundraise. The lunchtime auction at Oaklands in Pambula raised $10,500.
“People were very generous on Sunday, a carrot cake sold for $140, which says it all,” Bega Valley Can Assist volunteer, Peter van Bracht says.
“We need about four to five thousand dollars a month, last year we handed out $78,000.
“But since we’ve been going over 11 years, we’ve handed out about $550,000, and we’ve helped 424 people,” he says.
Can Assist covers some of the financial burden cancer treatment imposes on a patients life and those supporting them. The money raised helps with everything from electricity bills, to travel and accommodation, to specialist fees and medicines – anything and everything is considered.
“While people are undergoing treatment, their ability to work and earn a living drops,” Peter says.
“There are so many more people we could help, but people say – there are people worse off than us, but that is quite often not true.
“The sad thing is, in the Bega Valley there are people who can’t afford to pay $210 to see a specialist, it’s shameful that those people often go without treatment, we want to help,” he says.
The charm about Can Assist is that their support happens with strict confidentiality. There is only one person at each branch of Can Assist that ever knows the identity of the people receiving support.
“At our meetings once a month our liaison person provides a report, but no names are ever mentioned, nobody else in the organisation knows who we are helping,” Peter explains.
“That’s the way we like it, and I think people like that we respect their privacy.”
Competition for the charity dollar is tight in the small towns and villages that dot the Bega Valley. Can Assist works hard to keep the organisation’s own costs low.
“We don’t have overheads – no cars, no office, the only luxury is a mobile phone that is used as a contact point for people,” Peter says.
“And we can honestly say that every cent we raise, stays in the Bega Valley – we pride ourselves in saying that.”
Around events like Sunday’s auction, volunteers are selling morning tea to local businesses once a month and selling raffle tickets to keep funds rolling in. Other local charities like the Bermagui based Cancer Research Advocate Bikers (CRABS) also donate funds from time to time to help with the growing need.
“If you know anybody that needs help please contact Can Assist and we’ll see what we can do for them,” Peter says.
“We are just happy to help people and make life a bit easier.”
*This article first appears on RiotACT