The work of Britain's 23 million volunteers is growing all the time. It is estimated to be worth pounds 41m every year - the third-largest component of Gross Domestic Product after services and manufacturing, according to the Volunteer Centre. A national strategy on volunteering is due to be announced by the Government today as part of the ninth annual Volunteers Week. Judith Thwaite,57, won the Whitbread Volunteer Action Award in 1994 for more than 30 years of voluntary work. She talked to Cherrill Hicks.
What she does: "At the moment, I edit a poetry publication for cancer sufferers and their carers. It's called Patchwork and comes out quarterly. The first issue was published in 1992 and now we print about 750 copies, which get distributed all over the country. We are sent poems by people everywhere - anyone whose life has been affected by cancer. I do all the typsetting and proof reading and a colleague does the artwork.

I've also set up a group called Creative Arts Against Cancer, which runs poetry and art workshops. And I work for a local support group for cancer sufferers and their families. It's based in Macclesfield, but people come from all over the North-west. In the past I've done all sorts: fostering, prison visiting, work with disadvantaged children."

Why she does it: "My own son, Mark, died of lymphoma [a cancer that affects the lymph nodes] in 1971, at the age of eight. I'd always done voluntary work, but after Mark's death I started getting more involved. Then in 1988, I was diagnosed as having non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, which I found pretty devastating, especially after my son. It was like a nightmare replay. I began to find writing very therapeutic and thought it would help other people, too."

Pros: "People get such a lot out of Patchwork, we get so much positive feedback. It could be a miserable booklet, but it isn't - there's a lot of humour. When you've got cancer, there are so many feelings to work through: aggression, anger, fear. It's good if people can voice them."

Cons: "It takes a tremendous amount of energy. I'm going through chemotherapy, and supporting other people can be exhausting. Just before going to the printers it's a lot of work, you can never relax."

Cost: pounds 700-800 annually, funded mostly through donations.

Hours: two to three daily.