Volunteering at a party conference

Volunteer Ann Howe describes her experience at the Lib Dem party conference in September.

Ann (centre) with Hannah and Chris from the Campaigns team

I became a volunteer with Prostate Cancer UK only recently. After my husband died from prostate cancer in 2011, I knew that I wanted to do something to help raise awareness, so that more men would avoid the late diagnosis that led to his death. I did my speaker training earlier this year, and resolved to take any suitable opportunity to become involved.

When the call came for volunteers to work alongside charity staff at one of the party conferences this autumn, I was delighted to be involved. I was very well supported in preparation, with documentation and telephone conversations. Our aims for the conferences were to raise awareness and get politicians to sign up to the Quality Checklist, drawn up to support the establishment of UK-wide comprehensive standards of care for men affected by prostate cancer.

Lib Dem Conference

I attended the Lib Dem conference in Glasgow for two and a half days. I must confess to being a little nervous, in spite of the excellent support. I had never been to a political conference, so my only image was what we all see on television news, of speeches in a conference hall. In fact, all the exhibition stands are in a separate hall, and there was a wide variety: politically linked groups; commercial companies; charitable organisations. In addition, a number of catering outlets kept us all fed and watered!

We had a table football game available for anyone who fancied their chances, linking to our partnership with the Football League. This proved very popular, bringing out the competitive streak in many of those who played – especially the politicians. The leader board was keenly scrutinised!

I had a really interesting and instructive time. Charity colleagues were friendly, helpful, supportive and encouraging. My main contribution was talking to people who came to the stand, handing out information and answering questions.

A number of things stood out. One very encouraging aspect was the obvious interest, from men and women, across the age range. Our information leaflets were popular, and the Prostate Cancer UK pin badge became a must-have item, especially as the days passed and more people wore them in the conference hall.

Raising Awareness

The other particularly striking aspect was the number of people who came to the stand who had personal experience of prostate cancer, or were aware of others affected by it. Several commented on the need to raise awareness with men and women - especially younger men.

Staff colleagues were very good at ‘netting’ politicians to come to the stand, support the Quality Checklist, pose for photographs and perhaps play table football. This was impressive because there were rarely more than a few minutes to make the case. But it wasn’t just MPs; we also had visits from MEPs, MSPs, prospective MPs, peers and councillors.

I thoroughly enjoyed the experience. If another opportunity arises, I’ll be near the front of the queue!