West Essex and East Hertfordshire charity, St Clare Hospice, is celebrating the fifth anniversary since the launch of its social movement project, Compassionate Neighbours – a project which is connecting communities, building community resilience and helping to prevent social isolation.
Compassionate Neighbours is an award-winning project which aims to help tackle loneliness within local communities.
Since the project started at St Clare Hospice, in 2018, it has connected more than 400 people, with almost 200 volunteers trained to become Compassionate Neighbours – giving an hour a week to offer social and emotional support to others who are isolated.
To date, the project has already matched more than 200 Community Members (socially isolated individuals in the local community) and is open to people to self-refer to the service or for professionals to make referrals.
Fiona Venus, Compassionate Communities Manager, said: “It is heart-warming to see the difference which bringing friendship into the lives of people who are nearing the end of their life and are lonely, can really make. Since the Covid-19 pandemic, it has been more important than ever to connect local people – as rates of isolation and loneliness increased, especially amongst older people, and those who are already frail and vulnerable from their conditions.”
Fiona added, “The beauty of this project is that it brings mutual benefits to everyone involved; it’s been such a delight matching people and seeing their friendships flourish over the last five years.”
The Compassionate Neighbours are ‘matched’ based on common interests, lifestyles and experiences and both parties benefit from a mutual, supportive relationship as friends.
Anne-Sophie is a volunteer with the project and said: “I became a Compassionate Neighbour because I really felt I wanted to give something back to the community. Now that my kids are older I felt like giving an hour of my time a week, was absolutely nothing, to try to make a difference to somebody who needed a bit of companionship in their life.”
Anne-Sophie is matched with community member, Doris, who said: “It’s lovely. We have a cup of tea and good old natter – put the world to rights!”
Another pairing is Hannah, Compassionate Neighbour, and community member, Marion. Hannah, originally from Wales, said: “I have had a chance to meet someone, who I wouldn’t have maybe met before. I am originally from Wales so when I came up here I didn’t really know that many people, so it was nice. She got a friend, and so did I – that sounds a bit cheesy, but it’s true!”
Marion agreed saying, “I think it’s a really, really good service, and feel that I’ve been very lucky.”
The project is actively recruiting volunteers who are able to spare time to bring friendship to the lives of people who are lonely and socially isolated. Volunteering as a Compassionate Neighbour is a rewarding role where people can build genuine friendships by calling or meeting a local, socially isolated person every week.
For more information on how people can access support, through friendship, and to find out more about becoming a Compassionate Neighbour
Lead photo:Compassionate Neighbours celebrated its 5th anniversary with a gathering in March 2023
Photo 2: Anne-Sophie and Doris have been matched through the Compassionate Neighbours project
Photo 3: Hannah and Marion have formed a mutual friendship
St Clare Hospice is a charity providing specialist palliative care for people living with terminal or life- limiting illnesses across West Essex and East Herts border.
We care for patients and their families, providing physical, emotional, social, psychological and spiritual support, and ensuring they have timely access to skilled, compassionate and sensitive care in a place of their choice.
Our services are free of charge to those who need our care, but cost around £5 million a year to run. With limited NHS funding we need to fundraise the majority of this each year through donations and other voluntary sources.
Compassionate Neighbours is an award-winning social movement which began in 2014, at St Joseph’s Hospice in East London. The project, which is run in West Essex and East Hertfordshire by St Clare Hospice, is working to prevent loneliness and social isolation amongst people who are living with a life- limiting illness or frailty. This innovative project is now being run in 11 Hospices across the UK.