Local funding secured to support our Compassionate Neighbours project

Carolyn Johnson, Compassionate Neighbour, on the phone
Published on: Monday 26 Oct 2020 at 11:21

We’re delighted to announce that we have secured £5,000 funding from Epping Forest District Council for our Compassionate Neighbours project.

The funding, which has come from Epping Forest District Council’s Health and Wellbeing Community Grant, will help to train more volunteers to become Compassionate Neighbours and to support more socially isolated people in the local community.

Our Compassionate Neighbours project works by ‘matching’ local volunteers to members of the community who are socially isolated, encouraging the building of genuine friendships through weekly visits or phone calls. Epping-based Compassionate Neighbour, Delia, has been a Compassionate Neighbour for more than two years. “I initially joined as I enjoy talking to people,” Delia explained.

Delia had recently been matched with Peggy, who lived in Epping. Due to the limitations around Covid-19, Delia and Peggy’s relationship was conducted entirely over the telephone – but because of the project Delia was able to bring friendship into the life of a local Epping resident who was nearing the end of her life.

“We never met, but from day one it was like we had known each other for years. The conversations just flowed and we were never lost for words. We could be on the phone for over an hour some weeks,” explained Delia. “I heard about her happy life, from childhood to adulthood.”

Sadly, Peggy died recently but her daughter, Debbie, explained how valuable the friendship with Delia had been. “My mum got so much out of talking to Delia and really enjoyed their time on the phone together. It was just a shame they never got to meet. However, not meeting didn’t make a difference to their friendship, they got on like they had always known each other.”

Delia added, “The short time we were telephone buddies was a happy and pleasurable time for us both.”

The new funding will ensure that more Compassionate Neighbours, like Delia, are trained and supported as they bring friendship to the lives of people who are frail, socially isolated and have a life-limiting condition.

“We’re so grateful for this vital funding which will help us to continue changing local people’s lives throughout the area, tackling loneliness and social isolation amongst those who are living with a life-limiting illness or experiencing frailty due to older age,” explains Stacey Towler, Compassionate Neighbours project manager at St Clare Hospice.

“Our mission, which fits neatly with Epping Forest DC’s priorities for 2020-21, is to help people to live independently for longer, whilst improving mental health and wellbeing; promoting healthy relationships and support networks within communities. This work could not be more important throughout the pandemic.”

Cllr Holly Whitbread, Portfolio Holder for Housing and Communities at Epping Forest District Council, says, “I am delighted Epping Forest District Council’s Health and Wellbeing Community Grant Funding has been able to support St Clare Hospice’s excellent Compassionate Neighbours Scheme. The past few months of lockdown and loss have been very difficult, particularly for those most vulnerable, including those nearing the end of their life through age or illness who may be experiencing loneliness. This community spirited project is helping those who need it most by providing friendship and support and helping tackle social isolation. It is great that St Clare Hospice have used technology to keep the scheme going despite Covid restrictions, this companionship is more important now than ever.”

Stacey adds: “Since the project began in early 2018, we’ve touched the lives of over 295 local people through our Compassionate Neighbours project, who have benefitted either directly or through their role volunteering with us. However, we know that there are so many more people out there who are facing loneliness throughout these difficult times – and we want to reach out to those people.

“If you, or somebody you know, is lonely and living with a life-limiting illness or experiencing frailty due to older age, please get in touch. We are here for you. If you would like to support this project as a volunteer, we offer a free training programme to help you change lives in your local community. We’d love to hear from you!”

New training sessions have been organised to run on the online meeting platform, Zoom. There are sessions currently planned for 9th-17th November and 5th – 21st January 2021.

Find out more about the project and how to train as a Compassionate Neighbour, visit our Compassionate Neighbours pages

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