Year 10 Tenterfield High School student Hayley Carpenter was so impressed with the care that Our House Lismore provided her grandparents that she initiated a fundraiser at the school with all proceeds going to the accommodation house.
Hayley calls her grandmother Helen Carpenter the 'rock of the family', but it was the extended Carpenter family that was rocked when Helen was diagnosed with breast cancer last year.
Thankfully Helen's long four-week stint in Lismore for treatment, along with lots of shorter stays, was made a little easier thanks to the convenience of Our House, just across the road from Lismore Base Hospital, giving patients and family members a temporary home.
Hayley said the family was already familiar with Our House after using it when her grandfather Keith needed treatment. The Carpenters are far from being the only Tenterfield people making use of the facility. Our House's Rebecca Battista said 23 per cent of all residents come from Tenterfield, and there's been a big jump in the past 12 months.
The facility is not only for patients but also carers and family members, and stays range from overnight to several months. It caters not only to those undergoing cancer treatment but also other medical conditions or even just with an early pre-op appointment, and rooms are usually available when required.
"It's takes the worry out of travel, and there's onsite parking," Rebecca said.
Those from more than 100 kilometres away can apply for an IPTAAS (Isolated Patients Travel and Accommodation Assistance Scheme) allowance so they're only $20 a night out of pocket, although they can also apply for assistance through the Our House Hardship Fund for some of this fee to be waived.
The fund is replenished through community donations, and often from past guests on a 'pay it forward' basis. Hayley can opt to have the proceeds from her fundraising go towards this fund, or to a current project to upgrade the microwave and seating in each of the rooms.
The purpose-built home-away-from-home is now six years old and needs a little refurbishment, but it that time it has provided shelter for 6000 visitors.
Along with juggling her studies Hayley decamped to her grandparents' place to look after Keith Monday to Friday while Helen received her treatment. It was at school that she had the idea to do what she could to show her appreciation to Our House, and found that the school was right behind her.
"I was so nervous approaching the principal (Sandra Rosner), but she said it was 'a lovely idea', and it snowballed from there," Hayley said.
The school celebrated an out-of-uniform day, encouraging students to come dressed in the yellow-and-blue theme of Our House. SRC (Student Representative Council) members collected a gold coin donation from participating students, and the Year 11 students helped out at a sausage sizzle which raised more money, for a total of around $400.
Hayley thanked the school community for its support. With Helen now finished her treatment, Hayley hopes the family won't be as regular guests of Our House as in the past.
"But it's good to know it's there," she said.
Helen is one proud grandmother, full of praise not only for Hayley but for the care she received at Our House.
'They just treat you so well," she said.
Various community organisations come in on Tuesdays and Thursdays to provide dinner, with other days self-catered. Helen said the complex is just like a big motel with 20 rooms, along with a communal kitchen, gardens and a playground, provided at minimal cost to guests.
"That's what you need when you have so much else going on," she said.