When I became a Compassionate Neighbour

Compassionate Neighbour, Alice, shares her experience of learning how to become a volunteer within the project - after taking away more than she expected from the training sessions here at St Clare Hospice.
Published on: Thursday 04 Jul 2019 at 09:07

Finding out about Compassionate Neighbours

My name is Alice Sewell, and I work locally in the public services sector. This year, I decided to take on a new adventure in my life. I became a Compassionate Neighbour with St Clare Hospice.

In Spring 2019, I found out about the Compassionate Neighbours project from a leaflet, whilst I was attending a counselling session in my local Community Hub.

I decided to volunteer because I wanted to be more involved with my community. I wanted to have the opportunity to make a meaningful difference to someone’s life.

Also, I thought I might find a benefit for myself, by gaining more experience in spending time with different people which, in turn, would have a positive impact within my own career.

The Compassionate Neighbours training

Part of becoming a Compassionate Neighbour is attending the training sessions, which are led by the project manager.

I didn’t really know what to expect from the training sessions at first. I suppose I thought it would be rather basic and cover the fundamentals – for example, Health and Safety, Safeguarding, etc.

In all honesty, I expected to be bored and wanted it to be over quickly so I could get on with being a Neighbour! Yet, I certainly did not expect to take away as much as I did. After the first session, I was immediately looking forward to the next.

Having never visited a Hospice myself, I expected a cold, clinical, somewhat depressing, environment. However, I could not have been more wrong.

The Hospice has such a welcoming, warm feeling, with beautiful gardens, therapy rooms and a family room, ensuring every visitor who comes to St Clare is well looked after.

The Compassionate Neighbours training covered so much more than just the essentials. In fact, we had group discussions and activities. This meant I had the opportunity to engage with people that I, perhaps, may not have encountered otherwise.

What I learned

Not only did I learn what the role of a Compassionate Neighbour is, and what to do with any Safeguarding concerns that may arise; I learnt what it really means to be ‘compassionate’.

The training sessions provided an opportunity to explore the concept of a ‘good death’. We discussed what it means to experience grief and loss.

Whilst, for many people, this is an emotional subject, the sessions felt like a safe place to explore those feelings. So, I felt comfortable and free to be genuine and honest with others.

Being someone who has not experienced the loss of someone close, I felt that I didn’t have the personal experience of grief to share with the others. Therefore, I worried that this would mean I wouldn’t be able to relate to the other members. Or, perhaps I wouldn’t make a good Compassionate Neighbour. However, the training helped me to realise that my own experiences are just as valuable.

I pride myself on being able to take control of my emotions, and yet, I found that I felt touched by some of the activities in the sessions.

Talking about death and dying

The ‘good death’ activity allowed us to explore the concept of death and what would be important to us as individuals at such a time.

By the very nature of St Clare Hospice, death is an inevitable subject of conversation. However, it can be really difficult to explore with someone. Whilst I felt no pressure to share, this activity showed us that it’s OK to discuss our own mortality. And actually, it’s really important that our loved ones are aware of our priorities around our own death. Overall, I found this subject particularly touching and incredibly poignant.

Starting my journey as a Neighbour

The Compassionate Neighbours Manager was incredible during running the training sessions. I honestly think that there is no one better suited to the role! She encouraged us all to be ourselves and share our own opinions and experiences. She has the perfect balance of professionalism and fun, allowing her bubbly, caring personality to shine through the activities.

Not only do I feel emotionally and intellectually equipped to begin my role as a Compassionate Neighbour; I have never taken away so much from one course, both professionally and personally.

I learnt and shared things about myself that I did not expect to, and I am truly grateful to the Compassionate Neighbour Manager and the Hospice for providing such a tailored course.

I’d encourage anyone considering becoming a Compassionate Neighbour to call up and simply chat things through with the Manager on the phone!

I cannot wait to meet my ‘match’ within the project, and to develop a meaningful friendship with someone in the local community!

– Alice

Feeling inspired?

For more information about how you could volunteer with Compassionate Neighbours, or how the programme could benefit you, please visit: stclarehospice.org.uk/your-community/compassionate-neighbours

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