Welcome! We can barely believe we are already onto our June edition of Cedar Garden Sessions, where as always, Hannah, Brand & Web Marketing Officer, interviews a member of the Penny Brohn UK team to find out more about them and the work they do behind the scenes to keep our services up and running.

This month, Hannah speaks with Sarah MacDonald (affectionately known as Sarah Mac), who has been at Penny Brohn for several years, as our Services Operations Manager – and now more recently has moved into a new role for the Academy.

So Sarah, thank you for joining me. Tell me, how did you come to work for Penny Brohn UK?

Blimey! It’s such a long time ago… I came to work here in 2003. I had 2 very small children and was working for a homelessness charity in Bath but I wanted to work closer to home. I put a lot of time into thinking about what the best kind of work would be, but never really considered the Bristol Cancer Help Centre, as it was then.

Ah yes, of course – two name changes since those days!

Yes – a lot has happened. Well, I saw the job add for the Cancerpoint Development Manager just before I got married and sent the application off from honeymoon in France.

Ah – that’s very committed!

It was a full time role, but they agreed to let me work part time.

Ah great. I love how much Penny Brohn tries to adapt so that the right people are on the team. Now, I know that you have changed roles a bit since then. What does your most recent role involve? 

Just now I’m in transition from the Services Operations Manager role, to a new Practice Development role. As Services Operations Manager I was responsible for managing and supporting our therapists and facilitators and planning and coordinating the services at the National Centre. It included making sure all our services are properly utilised, as well as delivering some services for clients and corporates and looking after training and development. This role sits right at the heart of the services team and has been exciting, dynamic – and rather more than is possible on 26-hours a week [laughs].

Yes [laughs] – I can imagine that your hands were pretty full with all that. So what does your new role entail?

The new Practice Development Lead role will take the staff training and service development aspects further and give us some resource to build partnerships across the country. For instance, I’ve just been training a cancer charity called Sunflowers, which is based in Liverpool, to deliver Penny Brohn UK courses.

That’s really exciting! Will you be doing more things like this in the future? 

We are hoping to develop lots more partnerships, yes. That way we can reach more people more efficiently with our Bristol Whole life Approach. I’ll also be putting together training and development programmes for corporates that will hopefully help bring in income, and reviewing and revising course content.

Brilliant – sounds like really big things are happening. How exciting! What would you say that you are most excited about at the moment?

So many things! We have been trying to talk more with clients over the last few years, and one of the things they are telling us is that we need to get better at helping people talk about and plan for death, dying and bereavement. I’ve been doing a lot of work looking at how we might do that, what support our therapists would need and what services that directly addressed issues of death dying and bereavement would look like. It’s taken me out and about to conferences and workshops, given me the chance to meet new potential partners and stimulated me to read and think and challenge myself. I’m loving it!

That is really brilliant work, by the sounds of it and I imagine it must be very satisfying to make changes that are directly addressing the needs of our clients. 

Absolutely! I love being at the heart of the amazing, wonderful, life-changing work we do. I love it that my work reflects my personal values and ideals and challenges me every day to practise authenticity, kindness and compassion. I love being able to eat the delicious healthy lunches in the beautiful gardens and I love introducing people to relaxation and meditation. It doesn’t feel like work – it feels like a special treat!

What an amazing answer – I couldn’t agree more! Do you find there is a moment that stands out to you as a particular highlight of your time at Penny Brohn so far?

1. Gingernut
2. Custard Cream
3. Caramel Chocolate Digestive
4. Hobnob
5. Regular Digestive
6. Fox’s Creams

Over 15 years? So many things! I think co-facilitating on some of the Retreats has been a particular highlight.

Fair enough! I am finding it hard enough to pin-point one individual moment over 2 years!! [laughs] So finally, we’re at the big question again, and quite frankly Rob’s answer last week unnerved me, so I hope yours is less unusual… what is your favourite dunkable biscuit? 

[Laughs] Gingernut. No contest!

What a relief – that’s far more acceptable! [Laughs] 

Thanks to Sarah for joining me in the Cedar Garden this month. It was great to hear about why she has been with Penny Brohn for so long. The biscuit leader board has been shaken up this month with Gingernuts taking top spot! 

We’ll be back here with another member of the Penny Brohn team next month. So keep an eye out for the next Cedar Garden Sessions.

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