Marilyn Williams Named Outstanding Volunteer of the Year – Jamaica

Marilyn Williams Makes a Difference in the Life of Cancer Patients in Jamaica

KINGSTON, Jamaica – Marilyn Williams fought back the tears when she was told she was the Outstanding Volunteer of the Year, an award that was bestowed recently on her by the Council of Voluntary Social Services (CVSS).

“I was so elated, I jumped for joy. I felt so honoured that someone would recognize 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 the person she helps, appreciates it.

Mrs. 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.

Marilyn Williams Named Outstanding Volunteer of the Year - Jamaica
Saffrey Browm (left), chair of the Council of Voluntary Social Service presents Marilyn Williams with the CVSS Outstanding Volunteer of the Year Award on Thursday, October 4 at the Jamaica Pegasus Hotel in Kingston, Jamaica.

Described as a caring and loving person, attributes which she extends to all of her cancer patients, Mrs. Williams is committed to counseling persons before and after surgery.  She plays the role of counselor, doctor, mother and friend to all the women and men who visit the JCS in Ocho Rios.

Mrs. 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 organized the annual fundraiser Relay for Life, which is held at Turtle River Park in Ocho Rios, for the past 13 years.

The annual fundraising event raises funds to continue the very important work of educating, assisting and counseling those persons who have been diagnosed with cancer.

Initially she became actively involved in voluntarism back when she lived in the United Kingdom when her grandson was diagnosed with sickle cell anemia, a disease that affects the hemoglobin.

“My grandson, who was born in 1992, had full blown sickle cell anemia 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 Mrs. 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 organizing 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.”

Her work with the JCS has been impactful in that, the surrounding communities have become more aware of the need to get the requisite tests done as well as the various options regarding treatment when diagnosed.

Evidence of this lies in the exponential growth in the number of women and men coming forward to have the tests done, which not only increases the chances of early detection but, also allows for a higher rate of survival. Many also gain confidence that a diagnosis of cancer is not necessarily a death sentence and have in turn, shared this with others.

Mrs. Williams’ initiative to support children diagnosed with cancer has led her to partner with the Ocho Rios Optimist Club with increasingly good results. Such as, the work of the JCS has become more widespread and volunteerism has increased.

The inclusion of volunteers in particular, has made an amazing difference in the two parishes the JCS serves.

Her advice to volunteers is: “You get this really awesome and wonderful feeling when you do so. If you can give back and volunteer, it is a good thing,” she said.

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