Rachel, who lives in south Belfast and is the Family Service Coordinator for Cancer Focus Northern Ireland, is taking part in the annual Little Red Lighthouse on September 22.
A keen outdoor swimmer, Rachel decided to turn her hobby to good use and raise funds for the charity.
“I’m used to swimming in rivers and the sea but I’m really excited about this adventure as I’m not quite sure what to expect. For one thing, I’m used to swimming in cold water and this will be warm. It will be a real challenge. I’ve been training hard three or four times a week but it will still probably take me several hours to complete the course. The water looks pretty choppy from pictures I’ve seen,” she said.
Rachel’s job involves supporting families when a significant adult has cancer. “The families I work with have been really supportive – lots of the children have been inspired to get involved and have taken part in a sponsored bike ride to raise funds for me which is so heartwarming,” she said.
Rachel is also undertaking the swim in memory of the many wonderful parents and grandparents she has come in contact with who have since died.
“I recently I attended the funeral of a young man and was crying. A family member said to me ‘Do you not get used to this?’ “I said ‘No. The day I get used to it is the day I stop.’
“That conversation made me think of how many amazing people I have met, and I realised that I’ve known and supported more than 90 families through the loss of a much loved adult over the last four years.
“Each of those families has at least one child. I am swimming to raise awareness of all these fantastic children, and to remember their much loved family members and the parents who haven’t had the chance to see their children grow up,” she said.
Rachel said she also wanted to highlight the Cancer Focus Family Service. “It is invaluable to the adults and children who use it. When an adult in a family is diagnosed with cancer, it affects everyone,” she said. “We help cope with the disruption to ordinary family life and try to minimise the long term impact on children’s emotional well-being when a mum, dad or close family member has cancer.
“We discuss your individual needs with you and arrange whatever support is best for your family. This might be one-to one support in your home or at our service centre inBelfast, or at our family groups or bereavement groups. We also have a six week programme for primary school aged children to help them understand cancer through the use of art, craft and play,” explained Rachel, who is a qualified drama therapist.
“We do excellent work with families in a time of stress and uncertainty, so please dig deep and give generously.”
If you would like to help Rachel reach her target of £2,000 you can make a donation on her Just Giving page at http://www.justgiving.com/Rachel-Smith49. If anyone is interested in finding out more about the service please contact Rachel on 028 9068 0772 or email email@example.com