Mary Hodgson leads the Community Action Team at St Christopher’s hospice. She is at the heart of St Christopher’s drive to improve people’s experience of death by working collectively and collaboratively. She was interviewed for the St Christopher’s Connections magazine in order to find out what the Community Action Team are up to at the moment and we reprint this with permission.
What is the Community Action Team?
“The starting point is that the community knows how to care for one another.”
As Mary explains: “When you’re having a challenging time, you can help and be helped by being with other people who are going through a similar experience. You’ve got a level of empathy and awareness that other people may not have. In other words, you can be powerful, even when you’re fragile.
It’s our job to shift the power and leadership, so that community members can be enabled and empowered to support one another
“The whole of St Christopher’s is very much a learning organisation; it’s really focused on how we provide the best possible experience for people at the end of life. The more voices we have in that the better it is for all of us. Death, dying and loss is not just in the hands of medical professionals.
“This means it’s our job to shift the power and leadership, so that community members can be enabled and empowered to support one another.”
So, what does this look like in practice?
“One of the biggest projects we did last year was the COVID-19 Community Aid Project, providing different types of support for people shielding or isolated at the end of life.
“Amazing things happened. Thousands of tasks were performed, phone calls made, people reached loved ones on donated mobile phones who they hadn’t spoken to for months, volunteers’ support enabled people to stay at home and not be admitted to hospital and people made new and unexpected friendships.
People realised that their community cared about them
“What we found is that people realised that their community cared about them, and that they also got a sense of purpose from caring for others. And that’s a really important part of all the projects that we do. That’s the power of community action.
“We have such great links and connections to local groups and we just couldn’t work without them.”
As Mary explains here: “We are tuning in to what community groups think their members want and need with the aim of making sure everyone is better prepared.
“The Croydon Death Literacy Network for instance is about working with different groups in Croydon to make sure people have the knowledge, the skills, experience and support they need to enable themselves to have the best possible end of life experience.”
So, how can you get involved with the Community Action Team?
“We have existing projects people can get involved in such as Compassionate Neighbours, Coach4Care and Wellbeing activities which are all on our website. But if you’re curious about end of life experiences or you want to be active in your community then get in touch with us on 020 8768 4761 or email firstname.lastname@example.org