Meet a Family Support Coordinator: Christine Donovan
After beginning her career working with intellectually disabled people in residential living, Christine Donovan’s life was put in a new direction when her two-year-old daughter Erica was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukaemia nearly thirty years ago. When a role as a Family Support Coordinator came up in the Otago/Southland area a few years later, Christine jumped at the chance to provide other families with the same care and support she received during her own journey.
Can you tell us a bit about your professional background?
After completing a degree in psychology and education, then a couple of years of travel, I worked in the not-for-profit area with intellectually disabled people in residential living. I began working with Child Cancer Foundation 25 years ago, so it’s become a bit of a life-long profession!
What made you want to be a Family Support Coordinator at Child Cancer Foundation?
I became aware of Child Cancer Foundation when my two-year-old daughter Erica was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukaemia in 1991. After recognising the value of support at that time, I took the opportunity to apply for a newly established position for a Child Cancer Foundation Family Support Coordinator for the Otago/Southland area.
What does a typical week look like in your job?
I enjoy the fact that there is not really a typical week. While we plan for visits to families – and for the Otago/Southland area there can be a lot of travel involved – you never know exactly what a particular day will bring. There are always unexpected phone calls or people calling in that may change your expectations of the day completely.
What fuels you passion for your work?
Knowing that you can make a family’s experience during this stressful time just a little bit easier is probably the main thing that fuels my passion. I also feel that it is a huge privilege to be working with families at a time like this and I learn something from each and every one of them.
What is the most challenging part of your job?
I will always feel particularly challenged when a child dies, however, at the same time, supporting a family through this stage in their lives has also proved to be very rewarding and meaningful.
What makes you the right person to support the children and families you work with?
While families may not ever know that I have been through the experience of my own journey with childhood cancer, I think that this has given me the insight to be the right person for the role.
How do you maintain a good work/life balance?
When I first started in my role it was harder to leave work at the office each day, but now I am well practiced at it! I enjoy being at home in my garden, and time with family, friends and pets.
What do you think families appreciate most about what you do?
I think families appreciate having someone to share their journey who is not personally involved. While there is a lot of practical support that we are able to put in place, I think that it is our presence that is most valued.
Our support is powered by you
Our Family Support Coordinators are at the heart of everything we do, providing one-to-one support for each family.
Please donate today to ensure that each family can receive personalised support when they need it most.
Rayleen is one of the Family Support Coordinators who provides essential support for families in the…
Chrissie is one of our wonderful Family Support Coordinators who supports families in the Auckland region.