Marilyn Williams fought back the tears when she was told that she was the Outstanding Volunteer of the Year, an award that was bestowed on her recently by the Council of Voluntary Social Services (CVSS).
“I was so elated, I jumped for joy. I felt so honoured that someone would recognise the work I do and would also want to reward me for something I do enjoy doing,” she said, while noting that the greatest joy she experiences is when a person she helps appreciates it.
Williams has been a volunteer with the Jamaica Cancer Society (JCS), St Ann and St Mary branch, since its inception in July 2005. Through her hard work and dedication, the office, located in Ocho Rios, expanded from a small dwelling to a fully functioning office serving most, if not all, of the communities in St Ann and St Mary.
Williams described as a caring and loving person, attributes that she extends to all of her cancer patients. Williams is committed to counselling persons before and after surgery. She plays the role of counsellor, doctor, mother, and friend to all the women and men who visit the JCS in Ocho Rios.
Williams also started a Survivors’ Club for those who are fighting the disease. That club is now over 100 strong, providing information and creating linkages between survivors. She has organised the annual fundraiser Relay for Life, which has been held at Turtle River Park in Ocho Rios for the past 13 years. The annual event raises money to continue the important work of educating, assisting, and counselling those persons who have been diagnosed with cancer.
Initially, she became actively involved in voluntarism while living in the United Kingdom when her grandson was diagnosed with sickle-cell anaemia, a disease that affects the haemoglobin.
“My grandson, who was born in 1992, had full-blown sickle-cell anaemia, and I ended up volunteering to help him and other children who were afflicted with the disease,” she said, adding that her assistance included raising funds to assist with medical expenses.
Upon returning to Jamaica in 2004, the Trelawny-born Williams, who retired from years of service in the General Post Office, segued into assisting the Jamaica Cancer Society branch in St Ann.
She pointed out that she was adept at organising events to raise funds to help the less fortunate, so volunteering with the Jamaica Cancer Society was a natural transition.
“I am a people person, and I don’t like to see people suffer, so I help where I can. I enjoy that kind of thing,” she said. “You know you are giving back to the community. Even if it is just sitting and listening to them, it makes a big difference.”