Thursday 23rd September

Tracy Sellar - CLAN

This week we welcomed back Tracy Sellar of CLAN as our speaker.

We first heard from Tracy around 9 years ago when she was invited to speak to Rotary Elgin having only been in post for 2 weeks. She remembers it well as it was her first presentation for CLAN.

Tracy’s previous experience was as a Store Manager for Ikea and as counsellor along with volunteering in a hospice. The newly created role with CLAN gave her a blank canvas in Elgin to set up the service in this area to provide support to those who are dealing with cancer.

Cancer Link Aberdeen North was started 37 years ago by a lady who realised that there was a lack of emotional support to people and families who were experiencing cancer. As the service grew to other areas it became known as CLAN. Since then it has extended in the community to include homes and outreach centres. The Haven in Aberdeen is a place to stay if receiving cancer treatment and is like a B&B. Of the 11 CLAN centres, Tracy manages 8 of them in her role as Area Manager for North East Scotland.

Elgin hosts Moray’s main drop in centre which is manned by staff and volunteers who always give a warm welcome to their sitting room. The service is not medically based, staff and volunteers are trained to listen and can signpost to other advice and support, including mental health and financial services. This centre is available for those dealing with cancer including families, friends and carers and is open from 10-4 weekdays. Appointments can also be made if a drop in is not suitable.

CLAN works closely with the Oaks, GPS and the local hospitals to ensure people are referred quickly.

The last two years have been extremely difficult as the drop in service went from 5 days a week in Elgin plus days in Forres and Lossie to closed during lockdown. All the staff, with the exception of Tracy, were furloughed and fundraising was curtailed.

CLAN receives no government or NHS financial support and is entirely self-funded but does receive amazing support in Elgin and Moray.

The Covid pandemic has had an effect in other ways – transport is in more demand now as people are reluctant to use public transport and the rural areas do not have a great service. This has led to an increase in requests for support with transport from patients going for treatment. Many people have not had their cancer diagnosis in time or a delay in appointments, leading to more severe treatment required and sometimes a worse prognosis. There are also family and friends who have not been able to be with their loved ones in the final days or not been able to attend funerals. People are struggling and the support is needed more than ever.

Since lockdown the Elgin drop in centre has reopened, with Lossiemouth due to start again in October and Forres in November. There is a walking group every Tuesday which has a walk round Elgin followed by a cuppa, and although it is only men attending at the moment it is open to all. Also on offer are a Ladies coffee morning, wellbeing sessions, crafts and a Men’s group.

A nutritionist is available to advise on recovery and healthy eating, whilst based in Aberdeen she can provide online support or a face to face meeting if required and there is also support available specifically for children who have been diagnosed or have a family member with cancer.

The transport service currently deals with over 50 requests per month, especially as the traditional patient transport has been really cut back. With only 1 car and 6 volunteer drivers with an average of 250 miles per day and covid rules restricting the number of passengers it is very challenging.

With only 8 out of the original 30 volunteers returning following the lockdown, Tracy was asked what the criteria was to become a volunteer?

The answer was simple, a good listener.

Volunteers undertake two days of training on listening and support along with the statutory adult & child protections plus first aid, and are asked to commit to 4 hours per week.

Volunteer drivers also undergo the training for support to cope with conversations during travel.

As the organisation is well managed the financial position is reasonable at present and allowed them to survive the pandemic, however the impact of the lack of fundraising is still being felt. Small events are now starting again and the main Light the North Lighthouse Trail is hoping to raise major funds with the sale of the lighthouses in the future.

Tracy closed by saying how much she enjoyed her role and “it’s not a job, it’s a lifestyle”. She finds it “so rewarding to be able to help people” which was so evident throughout her presentation.

To become a volunteer contact Tracy for an initial chat on 01343 544132 or email

Light the North Lighthouse Trail

CLAN website

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back Elgin Rotary regularly invite speakers to our weekly meetings. Read about some of them here