“She is an inspiration to the young people who surround her” – this is just one of the glowing testimonials which has seen a young Peak District woman named the Ellen MacArthur Cancer Trust’s 2018 Volunteer of the Year.
Rosa Coker-Burnett, from Edale, was presented with the Trust’s treasured Luke Gilbert Volunteer of the Year Award in recognition of the difference the 23-year-old has made to so many young people in recovery from cancer at the Trust’s annual Volunteer Day in Birmingham on Saturday (3 March).
Rosa herself was treated for acute myeloid leukemia as a child at Sheffield Children’s Hospital and, in 2009 aged 13, attended her first Trust sailing trip on the Isle of Wight.
After rediscovering the confidence to positively embrace her own future through the Trust, Rosa started volunteering to inspire other young people like her.
This summer signals Rosa’s 10th anniversary with the Trust, and she will mark it by volunteering on two trips, including the Trust’s first residential week at the Hollowford Centre in Castleton.
Inspiring other young people
Rosa, who is studying for a Masters in International Security at the University of East Anglia in Norwich, admitted being: “very, very surprised” to receive this year’s award.
She said: “The Trust gave me the confidence to do things by myself and believe it will be ok. The me on my first trip definitely wouldn’t recognise me now.
I was very quiet and tomboyish and I didn’t know who I should be mixing with. I’d spent so long with adults in hospital I wasn’t sure why I should hang around with other people my age.
“At secondary school, I wouldn’t go to parties as I was really nervous about being around that many people and the logistics made it too stressful, whereas now I can do it. I’ve gone to university four-and-a-half hours away from home in a brand new city with brand new people and I’ve shown I can make a go of it and enjoy it.
“Hopefully now I show other young people they can go on and do things they want to too. I’m not the best sailor, but I can show them you don’t have to be, it’s about making them feel they can do things they didn’t think they could, having fun, talking to people and going away with a lot of new friends and smiles!”
The Luke Gilbert Volunteer of the Year Award was introduced three years ago in celebration of the Trust’s legendary volunteer, who sadly passed away in August 2016.
Luke’s incredible personality, sense of humour, enthusiasm, compassion and huge amount of fun made him an inspiration to everyone he met. The annual award winners will have demonstrated all the qualities Luke embodied.
Rosa was nominated by young people, other volunteers, and Trust staff and presented with the award by Luke’s mum, Julie.
And it’s not just Rosa’s Trust peers who have recognised her qualities. After she escorted young people on the train home from a sailing trip, another passenger was so impressed by Rosa’s manner, they took the time to write a letter to the Trust.
“ I get loads of satisfaction seeing young people achieve the smallest things. For so many, it’s a big step to do things for themselves again and it starts with the small things, even like chopping vegetables or taking control of the wheel for the first time.
Seeing their faces light up when they say to their parents ‘I was in charge of the boat!’ or ‘Look at this picture where I’m doing this!’ is a huge thing.”
A record 649 young people like Rosa were supported by the Trust in recovery from cancer last year.
Find out how you can volunteer and make a difference to young people in recovery HERE