New exhibition showcases rich legacy of hospice volunteering

Categories: Community Engagement.

The multi-media exhibition, entitled The Heritage of Care: Hospice Volunteering in the UK, features a range of compelling photographs, oral histories and video interviews which tell the story of volunteering in hospices over the past four decades.

Volunteers have played a central role in the modern hospice movement since
it was founded by Cicely Saunders in the 1960s and continue to do
so in hospices across the UK.

The exhibition was launched last night at the gallery@oxo at Oxo Tower Wharf in London, with an evening reception which welcomed more than 100 guests, jointly hosted by Help the Hospices and exhibition curators, Eyes Wide Open.

Rt Hon Lord Howard of Lympne QC, Chair of Help the Hospices, attended the opening reception. Speaking at the event, Lord Howard acknowledged the vital role of volunteers since the hospice movement began and highlighted the work of the Commission into the Future of Hospice Care, which recognised their important role in the future.

Lord Howard also drew attention to Help the Hospices founder, Anne Norfolk, who is
featured in the exhibition as a volunteer.

The changing face of volunteering

Visitors to the exhibition will be able to share in volunteers’ experiences supporting terminally ill people and their families, including dealing with grief, as well as witnessing their hopes and excitement at the prospect of helping create better end of life care for those in suffering during the early days of the hospice movement.

The exhibition also highlights the changing face of hospice volunteering, which has become more diverse in recent years to include more young people and people from different cultural backgrounds

The exhibition has been collated by Eyes Wide Open – a London-based partnership community programme which runs exhibitions and workshops on a range of social themes.

It has been organised as part of the 18 month Heritage of Care project, awarded a £53,700 grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) to explore the history of the hospice movement in the UK. Help the Hospices has also supported the project and is keen to explore and highlight the vital role of volunteers in hospice care.

‘The backbone of hospice care’

David Praill, Chief Executive of Help the Hospices, said:

“Volunteers have been essential to hospices since their inception back in the 1960s and they still form the backbone of hospice care today. Without volunteers, hospices simply could not continue the valuable work they do.

“This exhibition memorably captures the history of hospice volunteering through the eyes of volunteers from different periods during the last 40 years. In doing so it pays wider tribute to the contribution of so many more dedicated people who have given their free time to support hospice care.

“Volunteering in a hospice is a very rewarding experience and we hope this exhibition will inspire many more people to consider offering up their time for this.”

There are currently 125,000 volunteers working in hospices throughout the UK, who come from a variety of backgrounds and ages. They give their free time to hospices in different ways – ranging from leadership roles as trustees to providing hands on practical and emotional support including for complementary therapies, fundraising and bereavement support. 

Hospices are always looking for more volunteers and are especially keen to reach out to more young people, including students.

The exhibition will run at gallery@oxo, Oxo Tower Wharf – which is owned and managed by Coin Street Community Builders – from 26 February to 2 March. It will be open from 11am to 6pm, Monday to Sunday. Admission is free.

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