Staff and volunteers at St Christopher’s Hospice in South London were delighted to finally throw open the doors of their brand-new Centre for Awareness and Response at End of Life – known as St Christopher’s CARE.
St Christopher’s CARE is a £6.5million state-of-the-art education centre; and a space for people locally, nationally and internationally to explore, discuss and improve experiences associated with living, dying and end of life care. Designed by MillsPower Architecture, the centre is set in the beautiful landscaped grounds of St Christopher’s Hospice and comprises of a sustainable three-storey community building, housing a number of flexible learning spaces such as a lecture theatre, library, skills lab, digital support area, various meeting rooms and a roof-top garden.
On Saturday, hundreds of people from the local Sydenham area – and many of their family and friends! – came through the doors to find out more about St Christopher’s and see how a hospice really works. Many guests knew or had known a previous patient of the hospice, and were keen to show their support and learn about the place that had helped and guided them and their loved ones at the end of life.
Everyone was greeted by cheery smiles, and were directed straight into a packed programme of interactive elements and events that introduced aspects of death, dying and loss in a fun, engaging and accessible way – from a Leaving Party with an on-demand DJ playing everyone’s most meaningful hits, to a thought-provoking art exhibition in partnership with the Horniman Museum and Museum of London, and a photobooth complete with props designed to ‘share how you care’.
Visitors also enjoyed a variety of arts and crafts activities which encouraged them to reflect on life, death and their experiences living through a global pandemic, from designing squares for a very special COVID quilt organised by the Covid Community Patchwork Quilt group, to painting a stone in the memory of a loved one and making a badge to show that they care.
Children and adults of all ages were also able to get stuck into contributing to a community wall mural supported by artist Richard Tate, and were able to browse the very best second-hand treasures in a pop-up shop created by St Christopher’s high street stores.
Mary Hodgson, Community Action Lead, said “From conversations I had alone I know that we welcomed back people we haven’t seen as an organisation for a while, as well neighbours from across the road who had never been through the door, and other local people who had no idea what a hospice was or did and who now have some idea.
“So much feedback on the day mentioned how welcome everybody felt, how positive everything was, and how lovely the staff and volunteers were, and for me that was such a triumph. That is exactly the ethos and atmosphere that we work hard to facilitate here at St Christopher’s, and now that we have St Christopher’s CARE we’re excited to welcome and support even more people in many more ways.”
After exploring the new centre itself, beautifully decorated with the help of NaturesFlorals flowers, visitors were welcomed out into the stunning landscaped grounds of the hospice, where local organisations including the Sydenham Society and Create Without Borders had set up stalls and were offering the chance to donate to even more good causes whilst picking up a painting, ornament, piece of jewellery or jar of jam to take home. People were also treated to a variety of snacks and drinks from both St Christopher’s and local businesses throughout the afternoon, with special thanks to Icy Cakes, the Refugee Café, Pretty Nice Slice, and the Downham Community Project for donating the use of a make-your-own smoothie bike.
The success of this public Open Day was also in no doubt much helped by the efforts of GoodGym in Sydenham, who dropped over 500 leaflets to local residents in the run up to the event, promoting the afternoon and encouraging people to drop by.
Mary added “We can’t thank our community friends, supporters and partners enough for helping us out on the day, and making sure that everyone had a good time. Your efforts were much appreciated and we hope you enjoyed the afternoon as much as we did.”
To find out more about St Christopher’s CARE, including information about future events, please visit their website here: https://www.stchristophers.org.uk/about-care/
About St Christopher’s Hospice www.stchristophers.org.uk
- We were founded by Dame Cicely Saunders, who started the global hospice movement with the opening of St Christopher’s in 1967.
- We are a charity. Just 1/3rd of our funding comes from the NHS and we have to fundraise £15 million every year to keep going.
- Our vision is of a world in which all dying people and those close to them have access to care and support, whenever and wherever they need it.
- Our goal is to help people live well until they die, and support those affected by the loss of a friend or relative. We know that each person is unique and we tailor our care to meet social, emotional and spiritual needs, as well as manage physical symptoms.
- We strongly believe that everyone should have access to the best care at the end of their lives and through a blend of expert practice, education and research we work with people across the world to improve and develop hospice care.
- We usually have over 1,300 people under our care at any one time, and last year we provided care and support to over 5,000 patients and 2,000 families and carers across South London, both at home, out in the community and in the hospice.
- We have over 500 dedicated staff and over 1,000 amazing volunteers.
- You can support the hospice by donating, volunteering or shopping at one of our 26 local high street shops.
- You can find our website by searching “stchristophers.org.uk” online, and we are also on social media – search @StChrisHospice on Twitter and Instagram.