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Give an hour a week to someone lonely in Harlow

Charity / Thu 30th Jan 2020 am31 09:21am

THE Compassionate Neighbours project at St Clare Hospice is appealing for volunteers to come forward in an attempt to end social isolation throughout West Essex and East Herts, amongst those coming to the end of their lives or living with a life-limiting illness.

The programme matches volunteers to members of the community who are experiencing loneliness as a result of healthcare needs, often related to barriers such as not being able to get out of the house or a lack of confidence. Volunteers then meet up with their match on a weekly basis as part of a mutually-beneficial friendship.

Since the project’s launch in 2018, the project has trained 98 volunteers and made 85 matches between volunteers and community members – a considerable achievement in a less than two-year period. However, Project Manager, Stacey Towler, urges that there are still many local people who are living with a life-limiting condition who are facing their journey alone.

“According to 2019 UK government statistics, disabled people living in England are four times more likely to feel lonely ‘often or always’ than non-disabled people,[1]” says Stacey. “The need for programmes such as the Compassionate Neighbours project is at an all time high – as statistics like these haven’t shown any improvement for the past half a decade.

“By sparing just an hour a week to visit someone in your community who is lonely, you can help to tackle this nationwide health crisis in your local area. Visiting someone who is lonely is about not only offering a listening ear and having a cup of tea; it is also incredibly empowering for that individual, too. After years of feeling lonely, your confidence in social settings can really decrease, preventing you from getting out of the house in some cases. But having a Neighbour come and visit can build up that confidence again – in fact, many of our ‘matches’ at St Clare get out and about in the community, going shopping, fishing, or to the cinema, on a regular basis.

Stacey explains, “the project is facilitating a mutually-beneficial, genuine friendship between two people in the local community. It’s not a ‘befriending’ programme; it’s about an authentic connection between two people, based on their similar interests and life experiences, who then build a supportive relationship together which is enjoyable for both parties.”

Compassionate Neighbour volunteer, Ruth, said, “I love being a Compassionate Neighbour because you come to understand what’s really important: an authentic connection with a person, and although they may have a life-limiting illness, we can still talk about the ordinary stuff and be normal.”

Dave, another volunteer, said: “Being a Compassionate Neighbour is definitely rewarding for me, too. I enjoy doing something for someone else on a personal level, and I like knowing that I am helping someone.”

Becoming a Compassionate Neighbour involves enrolling on a two-day training course to learn more about the project, and how to make the most from the role. There are training dates available in January, and February, across a variety of evenings, Fridays and Saturdays.

For more information, and to apply to join the team, visit St Clare’s website at stclarehospice.org.uk/your-community/compassionate-neighbours/get-involved

Alternatively, contact Stacey Towler directly on 01279 773729 or [email protected]

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