The Compassionate Neighbours at St Clare’s Hospice
Compassionate Neighbours, a community-led social wellbeing project led by St Clare Hospice in Essex, has been shortlisted for a Voluntary Community Service Award at Essex County Council’s ‘Who Will Care?’ Awards 2019.
Over the last year 51 local people living with a life-limiting condition or approaching the end of their lives have benefited from the programme, which operates throughout West Essex and East Herts.
Stacey Towler, the Compassionate Neighbours Project Manager at St Clare Hospice, has led the programme since January 2018. During this time she has successfully trained 64 local people as volunteers within the project, and carefully ‘matched’ 51 of them to appropriate members of the community. She explains how the programme works:
“The Compassionate Neighbours project connects local people and helps to tackle social isolation and loneliness in the community. The role of a Compassionate Neighbour is to regularly visit someone in the community who is living with a life-limiting illness or frailty. They are matched based on their personalities and experiences so that the relationship is mutually beneficial. It’s as simple as that.
“Our measure of success for the project’s first year at St Clare is not just that we have surpassed our annual targets of matched volunteers and members of the community; it’s the ‘little’ successes that truly represent what a difference Compassionate Neighbours has made.
“Over the last year I’ve seen a community member return to a hobby he had previously given up because of illness, and Compassionate Neighbours have supported community members through the death of a partner, and during hospital stays. These ‘small’ successes are often the things that can make a big difference to the lives of individuals.”
Compassionate Neighbour Sylvy and her matched community member are supporting each other through their respective grief. Sylvy said:
“It means a lot to be able to talk openly about common interests together, for ourselves and for our husbands whom we have both lost. We don’t have to pick our words carefully and we never have from day one! When we’re together we laugh all the time, which makes a difference to both of us. It brightens up the day and lifts my mood.”
Compassionate Neighbours was founded in 2011 by St Joseph’s Hospice in East London as an ambitious initiative to tackle social isolation – a national issue that is fast becoming one of the country’s most critical concerns in the UK. Eight years after its conception, a total of eight hospices throughout the country now run the project, with two more set to begin in the coming months.
Community Engagement Manager at St Clare Hospice, Sally Muylders, who played an instrumental role in the practical development of the Compassionate Neighbours project at St Joseph’s from 2015, said:
“It’s amazing to see how the project has grown and flourished over the course of the eight years it has been running. To see such a successful year at St Clare, and to hear first-hand about how it has had a positive impact on local people’s lives, is so very rewarding. Stacey has done a fantastic job in implementing the programme at St Clare Hospice, and I can’t wait to see what the future of the project will be in the coming months and years!”
The award winner will be announced on Wednesday 22 May.
For more information visit St Clare Hospice: Compassionate Neighbours