Compassionate Neighbours: ‘Changing lives’

Stacey Towler, our Compassionate Neighbours Manager, outlines what this exciting new project is all about, and how it can make a difference in the local community
Published on: Thursday 01 Mar 2018 at 10:05

The community-based project, Compassionate Neighbours, has arrived at St Clare!

Compassionate Neighbours is an exciting, hospice-led approach to reaching out to people in the community that might need a listening ear, and to access a little ‘TLC’. The project aims to support people who would benefit from seeing someone regularly, on a mutual basis. I really believe that Compassionate Neighbours can change lives for the better.

Currently, 8 hospices in the UK are involved in rolling out Compassionate Neighbours. They are St Joseph’s, Greenwich and Bexley, North London, Isabel, Garden House, St Christopher’s and the Princess Alice. I am excited to be leading this project for St Clare. I am really optimistic that it will flourish in West Essex and the borders of East Herts!

The project was originally devised at St Joseph’s Hospice in Hackney. This is the same the model that we are now also using across St Clare Hospice’s catchment area. We offer the support of our Compassionate Neighbours project in Epping Forest, Harlow, Uttlesford and East Herts.

St Clare Hospice has a new strategic approach which is outward facing, and based on trying to look beyond the great work that is already being delivered. My work managing the Compassionate Neighbours project embodies the new strategy – it’s a really exciting time for St Clare!

With our Compassionate Neighbours project, we are now aiming to reach out into the community. We will make connections with people that would benefit from accessing our care services but who aren’t currently engaging with us. We are going to try to work with all community groups, to learn and understand what people feel they need, and to develop the project accordingly.

Compassionate Neighbours Project Managers meet to launch the three projects. L-R: Stacey Towler (St Clare Hospice), Jeanette Fowler (Garden House Hospice Care), Christine Novelli (Isabel Hospice).

Only 3 weeks in and we have already made steps towards working with community groups that St Clare has struggled to support in the past. I think this really shows the potential of this incredible new project, which is also meeting a national agenda for equality and diversity as well.

I, too, am new to hospice life and culture. It is therefore an honour to be managing the first community-based project at St Clare. Most of all, I am excited to work with volunteers who give their time to make a difference. Together we can prevent loneliness and social isolation for those living with a life-limiting illness.

Naturally, I will also be encouraging people to be more thoughtful, and to show more compassion to each other – like communities used to do years ago.

I am working with all of the other Compassionate Neighbours project managers across the UK. We are all very different, and from a broad spectrum of backgrounds and experiences. My background is in community development, supporting people in many areas. I have worked with children, young adults and older people in my time.

I have always loved, and am passionate about, working with people of any age, race, culture or colour, helping them to break down barriers and to access life. In my opinion it is often the small things are what make the most difference.

It seems like this is one reason that St Clare (and society in general) so need Compassionate Neighbours. Nowadays, we are all so busy with our own life commitments. We often forget the small things like speaking to our neighbours and lending that helping hand.

I am very lucky that I already have a group of volunteers that are eager to find out more about this new project at St Clare, and to become Compassionate Neighbours. They are the Community Friends that have been established at the hospice as ‘befrienders’. We also have a couple of people that have shown interest in being a ‘Community Member’ to be assigned a ‘Neighbour’.

I am really nervous, but also excited about the up and coming Compassionate Neighbours Open Day on 7th March, from 3 – 7pm at the Hospice.  I hope lot’s of people attend the event and come to see what the project is about. Anyone is welcome to attend!

How does it all work?

To become a Compassionate Neighbour…

  1. Show interest in becoming a Compassionate Neighbour
  2. Complete your volunteer form, DBS check and supply references
  3. Attend a 2 day training course. Discussions will be around end-of-life and self-care, boundaries, risks, health and safety, and safeguarding – all in an informal format. You will receive support while volunteering
  4. A Community Member will then be matched with you. A home visit will then take place with Project Manager
  5. You will receive a weekly peer support session
  6. In addition, you will receive monthly development sessions

For more information on how to become a Compassionate Neighbour, please click here.

To become a Community Member with a Neighbour…

  1. Show interest in becoming a Community Member (who would like to be assigned a Neighbour)
  2. We’ll then take some details over the phone and arrange to come and visit you
  3. We’ll talk about your likes and dislikes, and what you would like to do with your new Compassionate Neighbour
  4. A Neighbour will then be matched with you. A home visit will then take place with a Project Manager
  5. We’ll call a few months into matching, to check all is going well

For more information on accessing the support of Compassionate Neighbours, please click here

I think that the world would be such a better place if people took some time out of their lives to think about others that just need a little time and care. It seems that it is realistic for us all to have this approach.

To find out more about our Compassionate Neighbours project here:

Stacey Towler is the Compassionate Neighbours Project Manager at St Clare Hospice. Stacey has over 20 years of experience in project development and working with people to make a difference. This includes working with young carers, Holocaust survivors, children and disabled young people. She has a degree in Community Arts Drama and a Youth Work Diploma. Stacey also has many informal qualifications regarding communication, mental health and working with people that have their own personal challenges. In her own time, she is also a volunteer with a local animal charity where she fosters and hand-rears animals for re-homing.

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