Date published: Friday 24th May 2019 | 15:43 GMT
Our Compassionate Neighbours community project has won a prestigious regional award!
A community-led social wellbeing project, Compassionate Neighbours, led by St Clare Hospice, has recently won the Voluntary Community Service Award at Essex County Council’s ‘Who Will Care?’ Awards 2019.
Awarded on the grounds of ‘outstanding service delivery to support their community and/or service users, the Compassionate Neighbours team at St Clare received the news at the Award Ceremony on the evening of Wednesday 22nd May, at Anglia Ruskin University in Chelmsford.
Presenting the awards on the night was BBC Radio Essex’s Dave Monk DL, who read aloud St Clare Hospice’s nomination details as finalists: “St Clare Hospice run the Compassionate Neighbours project, working to ensure that fewer people in our community face death on their own. The project aims to develop local people as volunteers who feel enabled and supported to be more compassionate towards their neighbours. The project has led to the Hospice training 64 Compassionate Neighbours, with 51 matched to support communities. The Hospice actively listens to their volunteers and looks for ways to diversify the project, for example, by forging links with local care homes. They provide social and emotional support to people towards the end of their life. They share their knowledge and experience. They have created a group of advocates for social change, empowering them to bring friendship into other people’s lives with the confidence to approach the issue of death and dying within a supportive framework.”
Seconds after, the Hospice was announced winner of the Voluntary Community Service Award, in competition with four other organisations including: Little Heroes ASD Support Group, Indee Rose Trust, Epping Forest ReUSE, Colchester Gateway Clubs and Brentwood Community Print.
Stacey Towler, Compassionate Neighbours Project Manager at St Clare Hospice, has lead and delivered the programme throughout West Essex and the borders of East Hertfordshire since January 2018.
On winning the award, Stacey says: “We are absolutely over the moon to have won this incredible, local award! The competition was extremely strong, as we were in the running along with lots of other wonderful local projects that sounded amazing. However, when Dave read out ‘St Clare Hospice’ as the winner, I just swelled with pride! It is with thanks to all of our amazing volunteers that the Compassionate Neighbours project at St Clare has been such a success. Their dedication and compassion towards local people, who are experiencing social isolation and loneliness as a result of a life-limiting illness or frailty, is totally awe-inspiring.”
Stacey adds: “Winning this award is a wonderful feeling, but it also really highlights the fact that we, as a community, have the ability, and therefore, the responsibility, to make a difference to local people’s lives through social support like this. It’s really encouraging to know that something as simple as a weekly visit, a cuppa and a chat can make such a difference to people. Change is possible, and this award has recognised that and given us even more opportunity to reach more people who could benefit from this kind of support.”
The Compassionate Neighbours project works by connecting local people together, by way of a mutually beneficial ‘matching’ process, to help tackle social isolation in the community.
“The role of a Compassionate Neighbour is to regularly visit someone in the community who is living with a life-limiting illness or frailty. They are matched based on their personalities and experiences so that the relationship is mutually beneficial. It’s as simple as that,” says Stacey.
The Compassionate Neighbours project was founded in 2011 by St Joseph’s Hospice in East London as an ambitious initiative to tackle social isolation – a national issue that is fast becoming one of the country’s most critical concerns in the UK. Eight years after its conception, a total of eight hospices throughout the country now run the project, with two more set to begin in the coming months.
Community Engagement Manager at St Clare Hospice, Sally Muylders, played an instrumental role in the practical development of the Compassionate Neighbours project at St Joseph’s from 2015. Sally says: “This ‘win’ for the Compassionate Neighbours project at St Clare is a tribute to the importance of social support networks for people who are socially isolated due to illness or frailty, or when they are approaching the end of life. It’s absolutely brilliant to see the project receiving recognition for successfully addressing and tackling this nation-wide issue in the local area. Stacey and the team have done a superb job over the last year and five months – real lives are being changed for the better. The future is bright for the project, and I can’t wait to see our plans for the next several months unfold at St Clare, when we will be trialling further support for local people as part of the project.”
More information and training dates
For more information about the Compassionate Neighbours project throughout West Essex and East Herts, including how to volunteer and how to self-refer to the scheme, please visit the St Clare Hospice website at: stclarehospice.org.uk/compassionateneighbours
Compassionate Neighbours volunteers are required to complete a course of mandatory training in order to enrol on the scheme. To view a list of upcoming training dates for aspiring Compassionate Neighbours volunteers, please visit: stclarehospice.org.uk/compassionateneighbours/training