Why Community Engagement matters

Published on: Friday 21 Jun 2019 at 12:50

Working in our community, with our community, for our community

My name is Sally and I am the Community Engagement Manager at St Clare Hospice. Most of what I do involves working in the community, but sadly, I seem to find myself sitting behind my desk more often than I’d like. This is why I’m so excited about our new Community Engagement Roadshows that we’re running over the next few months in our St Clare charity shops. The events will give people an opportunity to talk to us about what we do here at the Hospice, and tell us what they need.

My role at the St Clare is to promote our services to the wider community; create new ways that we can deliver our services in the community; and find ways for groups to get involved in what we do. The reality is that, unless we get out and talk to people about what they need and want, and what they think about what we do, then we won’t be able to deliver the services that people in our community really need.

Working with our community…

There are lots of people in our local community, who represent and support the Hospice brilliantly – fundraising for us, telling people about our services, and even talking to people about their own experiences of death and dying. What we do, in the Community Engagement team, is a little bit different – we can take people’s feedback about our care and support, and help shape new services based on what people tell us they need.

From talking to people I get to learn what they want. It’s a genuine conversation where we talk about how hospices could, and should, be helping people. Often, these can just be two minute conversations with people – conversations that, often, get really deep. I really enjoy having these interactions and connections with people that aren’t particularly long, but very meaningful. I also get to talk to people about how they can help others; a skill that lots of us have within us, but that we may need training and support in order to tap into.

Developing our care and support

As a Hospice, we want to reach more people with our services. To do that, we need to know what people think about us; what they think about death and dying; and about the services we offer. We’ll only know this by talking to people who aren’t already engaged in our services.

I would like to think that it’s not about constantly developing more services in order to reach more people; it’s about making the services we have equitable for all. It’s about ensuring that our services are culturally adept to receive everyone and that there are no barriers to accessing our services. We want to find new ways to deliver our services so that we can support significantly more people, but we want to find ways that are appropriate, relevant and local.

So, what does success look like?

A prime example of this is the recent development of our bereavement support services at St Clare.

We knew that there was a real gap for bereavement support in our community. The Hospice was receiving regular requests for support from people who, usually, we were not able to help due to barriers within our current service. We knew that we had to change the way we worked. The surveys we conducted told us that, actually, what people need is a space to talk. They need somewhere they can go to create new social support networks with others who have shared similar experiences. This is why we’ve set up five Bereavement Cafés in the last six months across West Essex.

We knew, from talking to people, that this is what was needed – and we listened. 

The importance of social support networks

We want to find more ways where we can help individuals and local groups to support each other, around anything and everything relating to the end of life. Existing examples include bringing friendship to the lives of socially isolated people, who are nearing the end of their lives.

This is what we do with our Compassionate Neighbours programme. Individuals become a source of support for others living in their local community.

We are also working with community groups to help deliver Bereavement Cafés where people can support each other around issues relating to death and dying. We’ve got the ability and the resources to help these conversations and new networks grow. We aren’t necessarily the experts in supporting people, but we know that we can help to unlock the latent capability of everyone to provide support for each other.

Come and say hello!

So, if you see us standing outside a St Clare charity shop sometime soon, come and talk to us. I’d like to know what you think about St Clare; what you think about hospice care; whether you’d like to get involved supporting others in your local community; whether you’d be interested in challenging yourself and raising money; or whether you’re looking to give something back as a volunteer.

What we really need, is for people like you to stop and tell us what they need. Then, next time I’m sitting at my desk, I can share that information with the Hospice and we can plan new projects and services that meet the needs of everyone – no matter how far away they are from the end of their life.

– Sally Muylders, Community Engagement Manager

Community Engagement Roadshows

Our Community Engagement Roadshow is running throughout June to October 2019, and is an opportunity for local people to find out more about St Clare and offer feedback or ideas on our services.

Led by Sally Muylders (Community Engagement Manager) and Stacey Towler (Compassionate Neighbours Manager), the Community Engagement Roadshow is set to visit every St Clare shop at nine separate events throughout the summer and autumn period.

For details of dates and locations of the Roadshow, please visit: stclarehospice.org.uk/your-community/activities/community-engagement-roadshows

For more information on how you can get involved with St Clare Hospice, and share your thoughts on our services, please contact Sally on 01279 773709 or email sally.muylders@stclarehospice.org.uk

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