Share two women from Cheltenham as they shine a light on their life-changing experience of the befriending service at Sue Ryder Leckhampton Court Hospice which marks eight years in action.
“I worked for Sue Ryder for 15 years so was already aware of the support the charity provides. Then about seven years ago I started attending their programme of day hospice activities including physiotherapy and art and craft sessions,” explains 73-year-old Kasey.
“I have multiple sclerosis and was at a low ebb health-wise, and it was at this time in 2016 one of the nurses at Sue Ryder Leckhampton Court Hospice talked about the befriending service.
“Initially I thought this isn’t for me. I have a family and grandchildren who I am very close to, so I didn’t think I needed to use a befriending service. To be honest though I didn’t really know much about it, so in the end I thought why not try.
“I met Jillie for a coffee and the rest is history as they say! We got on so well from the outset – our conversation was never stilted – and to this day Jillie has never made me feel like she’s just here as a volunteer doing a job. I think befriending is an amazing thing”.
Jillie Barton who is also in her 70s said, just like Kasey, she knew little about supporting people who are receiving palliative care through the befriending service but finds volunteering brings a lot to her life too.
“I was out for a walk with a friend who at that time worked for Sue Ryder and she asked if I would consider volunteering for the charity. I run a B&B which means at certain times of the day I have some hours to give,” explained Jillie.
“It was early days for the befriending service at that time, but it sounded like it would really work for me. It appealed to me as I enjoy having contact with people.
“I honestly get as much from being a befriender as Kasey says she gets from me. We are great friends. We enjoy talking about the same things – perhaps it helps that we are of similar age. We have the same sense of humour.
“I try to see Kasey every week and I look forward to it. If we can’t catch up in person for any reason, then we talk on the phone. Despite the challenges she faces, Kasey is always so plucky, and she really inspires me,” she adds.
Volunteer befrienders offer companionship, helping people to go out and access favourite activities and places, assisting with small practical tasks and offering respite for their family.
“We have lots of days out. We both enjoy our gardens and visiting the garden centre. We like watching tennis and cooking. Winchcombe is one of our favorite places because there’s an antique shop there we love – with a coffee shop I might add!” shares Kasey.
“It makes a massive difference to me as I can’t drive anymore, and I live out in the countryside so it’s hard to get public transport. I look forward to going out and about with Jillie. We laugh a lot but have serious conversations too (sometimes). The way I would describe it is it’s a really valued friendship,” she adds.
The pair share that while they have had too many wonderful times together over the last seven years to count, the highlight must be when they visited novelist, Jilly Cooper.
“My husband’s cousin is Jilly Cooper, so I arranged for Kasey and I to go and visit her. We had tea and cake; it was a lovely day!” said Jillie.
“A standout moment. It was amazing. She is a hoot,” adds Kasey.
Jillie explains the support she receives as a befriender for Sue Ryder Leckhamton Court Hospice.
“We have group support sessions at the hospice where we meet with other befrienders which is helpful. The support is there when you need it and our befriending volunteer coordinator, Pat, is great.
“I’ve never had a problem. Kasey and I have just hit it off, we’ve never even had a cross word. Maybe we are lucky, but I think when you have the right ‘match’ it just works.
“If people are interested in volunteering as befriender, I would say give it a go. You have nothing to lose and could find you have a lot to gain.”
About Sue Ryder
Sue Ryder supports people through the most difficult times of their lives. Whether that’s a terminal illness or the loss of a loved one – we’re there when it matters.
For over 65 years our doctors, nurses and carers have given people the compassion and expert care they need to help them live the best life they possibly can.
In order to continue to provide and develop our services and expert care we rely predominantly on income from our charity shops, fundraising activities, and donations from members of the public.
For more information please visit www.sueryder.org