TRAINING for volunteers who will help to run a £650,000 cancer support centre at Southend Hospital has begun.

Macmillan information and support manager Friederike Englund will oversee the centre, which will offer help and advice to patients, their family and carers.

Friederike, who has 30 years experience working with people who have cancer and other chronic illnesses, has been training the volunteers before the centre opens next month.

Because of an influx in applications after a recent Echo article, the centre does not need to recruit any more volunteers until May.

Friederike said: “We had an incredible response from the article in the Echo and we now have people queuing to volunteer.

“The training sessions have been really good, because they’re really interactive.

“We have small groups with a mix of cancer patients and those who haven’t had cancer, which has created a lot of discussion.

“I think we’ve got a fantastic calibre of volunteers with a variety of skills, so we’re really lucky.”

The training covers various topics, such as coping with loss, how to support grieving children, different kinds of support available at the site and how to provide information to patients, relatives and carers.

Volunteer Dawn Crockford is undertaking a counselling diploma and plans to volunteer at the centre in her spare time.

Dawn, 51, lost her father, Gus, to pancreatic cancer in 1997, and hopes to help other people who are in a similar situation.

She said: “I saw the story in the Echo and decided to apply. I wasn’t looking to volunteer initially but after reading the article, I thought I could spare a few hours.

“I lost my father to cancer, so I understand the massive impact it has on everyone – not just the person with cancer, but their friends and family too.

“Macmillan were fantastic when my dad passed away, so I’d love to give something back to them.”

Another volunteer, Anna Booty, from Thorpe Bay, said she applied to volunteer because she enjoys helping other people.

Anna’s husband, Stanley, has been battling cancer of the nose and throat for more than a year.

Anna, 63, said: “I applied because I just felt the need to help others.

“My husband is battling cancer, so I hope it will help me to be aware of other people’s needs and how to be sensitive to them.

“I like to talk to people and I just want to help and give them support where they need it. I’m really looking forward to the launch.”