St Clare Hospice looking for Compassionate Neighbours

ST Clare Hospice, in Hastingwood, is calling on local people to help them improve the lives of others through its growing community-led social connection programme, Compassionate Neighbours. The award-winning programme, originally founded by St Joseph’s Hospice in East London in 2011, has now been established in a total of eight hospices across the UK.

St Clare Hospice is using the Compassionate Neighbours project to tackle social isolation and loneliness for those living with a life-limiting illness throughout West Essex and East Herts. However, this relies on the support of local people to give an hour a week towards helping others in the community. These generous volunteers regularly offer their time, companionship and a listening ear to their matched Community Members.

The project at the West Essex and East Herts charity has successfully recruited 47 Compassionate Neighbours and is currently on-track to reach its ambitious target of recruiting 64 volunteers by the end of March 2019. St Clare Hospice is calling on caring members of the public from the Uttlesford District, Bishop’s Stortford, Sawbridgeworth, Harlow and Epping Forest areas, to come forward and join the ranks of its volunteers.

Harry Weldon (from Harlow) has already benefited from the project. He meets weekly with his Compassionate Neighbour, Dave Austin (from North Weald), during which time the pair enjoy spending time together at Harry’s home or out in local community.

Harry first encountered the compassionate, supportive environment at St Clare Hospice when he was attending a Day Therapy group. The following year he was told about the Compassionate Neighbours project at and asked if he’d like to try it. “I will try anything!” said Harry. “So I said ‘yes’ and it’s been good! I have enjoyed having Dave as a partner; he’s a really nice bloke. I think we have a similar sense of humour and we like similar things. Before I had a Compassionate Neighbour, I wasn’t getting out at all, but Dave has given me confidence and shown me that I can try different things now.”

Harry continued: “Compassionate Neighbours has also helped me to get back to doing the things that I love. I love fishing, and it is something that has always been a part of my life. But I stopped when I couldn’t get out of the house easily. It had been a few years since I had fished when Dave suggested that we should try going together. He drove us to a local fishing lake and we parked up. I don’t think Dave had really fished much before, so I showed him what to do. It was lovely in the sun. We were there for hours.”

The Compassionate Neighbours programme has also helped Harry to do things without Dave. “I have even been fishing with my brother-in-law, too, now! Compassionate Neighbours has helped to give me the confidence I needed. I would say to anyone thinking of getting involved with the Compassionate Neighbours project to give it a go! Compassionate Neighbours has really helped me.”

St Clare’s Compassionate Neighbours Manager, Stacey Towler, said: “A new year is upon us and, here at St Clare, we are looking forward to exciting times for the Compassionate Neighbours project! The service will celebrate its first birthday here at the Hospice in February, and by then we will have supported at least 65 community members who were experiencing loneliness and social isolation – which is fantastic!

“In 2019, we will be celebrating the real difference that the programme has made to local people, and looking to continue developing and expanding our reach so that no one has to feel lonely in the last chapter of their life within our community. We, as residents of West Essex and East Herts, have the power to ensure that the project continues to make a difference by giving just one hour a week and becoming a Compassionate Neighbour. Will you join us?”

New volunteers will be provided with a full training programme, free of charge. The training courses are informal, fun and inspirational, giving volunteers the opportunity to explore how they can use their compassion to help others and give them the confidence to support people in their community. Please note that you must be over 18 to volunteer for this service. St Clare Hospice will carry out a relevant DBS check and you must be willing to give up your time on a regular basis.

To find out more about becoming a Compassionate Neighbours project contact the Compassionate Neighbours Project Manager, Stacey Towler, on 01279 773729 or visit stclarehospice.org.uk/care/compassionate-neighbours/

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