When Fairfield resident Sinilia Radivojevic started volunteering with Cancer Council NSW in 1984, the word cancer meant one thing.
"It was like a death sentence," she said. "There was plenty to do and looking back and seeing what we have been able to achieve - like free breast screening tests and free bowel cancer tests from home - it is a lot and I feel proud to be part of it."
Entering her 36th year as a volunteer, Ms Radivojevic was recognised for her many hours helping the community when she was named the Adult Volunteer of the Year for the Fairfield and Liverpool region as part of the NSW Volunteer of the Year Awards.
The awards, run by The Centre for Volunteering, are supported by partners the NSW Department of Communities and Justice and ClubsNSW and were held virtually earlier this month.
She said she was "happy" and "proud" to receive the award. But her ultimate rewards come from helping people affected by cancer.
Not only has she been raising funds through the Fairfield Relay for Life and Biggest Morning Tea events, she transports cancer patients to medical appointments, visits them in hospital, lends a friendly ear when they need it, shows them what support is available and puts them in contact with people who have the same kind of cancer to make them feel like they are not alone.
This on top of her advocacy work which includes campaigning for free car parking for cancer patients at hospitals. During the COVID-19 pandemic she has also delivered shopping for families affected by cancer and travels all over Sydney to cater for the Spanish community because they often feel more comfortable speaking in Spanish.
Her Saturdays see her volunteering at Braeside Hospital to provide personal palliative care support and bring food and drinks to families during a special happy hour.
Ms Radivojevic was driven to help after losing her dad to lung cancer when she was three. Her mother is a cervical cancer survivor.
"The money invested in research has helped extend the life of people affected by cancer. The treatments are much better than 30 years ago, especially cervical cancer, " she said.
"My dream is a world free of cancer."
The Centre for Volunteering chief executive Gemma Rygate said regional finalists for the awards are invited to the Gala State Ceremony for the announcement of the 2020 NSW Volunteer of the Year.
"Volunteers from across every region of NSW have continued to give their time, energy and compassion in the face of enormous adversity over the past 12 months," she said.
"This is what the Australian spirit is all about. Helping others. Helping your community and never giving up. I couldn't be more proud of the region's volunteers and their incredible resilience and spirit. We are just so glad that technology allowed us to still come together to say thank you."
Families, Communities and Disability Services Minister Gareth Ward said: "Volunteers are the essence and flavour of our regional communities. They're the people raising money for vital causes, they're there for us in terms of emergency and they're the friend on the end of a phone breaking the cycle of isolation. We can't put a price on volunteers."