Chris – Volunteer Gardener

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I first came to know St Clare when my wife, Carol, was attending Day Therapy at the hospice. Carol had been diagnosed with Parkinson’s and cancer, but with the support of St Clare, life was just that little bit easier.”

“St Clare supported us in being able to manage Carol’s mobility, visiting us at home to assess what Carol would need. They were so generous in giving us equipment so that she could move around more easily, which really helped both of us throughout her illness.”

“Carol loved walking through the gardens at St Clare when we were on our way to the Day Therapy groups. Sometimes, it would take us 10 minutes before we got into Reception because she would be looking at all the lovely plants and flowers!”

“Gardening was Carol’s passion – she had ‘green-fingers’! She always kept our garden at home looking wonderful, and I will always keep it that way for as long as I can.”

“Since Carol sadly passed away, about three and a half years ago now, I have taken on her passion as my way of remembering and honouring her – whilst also giving back to the hospice charity that supported our family so much, through what was such a difficult time.”

“It all started when I was coming to the hospice for bereavement support after Carol died. I just started chatting with some of the people here, and we would always mention how wonderful the gardens are.”

“I found out that I could come and volunteer in the gardens, which instantly appealed to me as I knew what a difference the gardens had made to Carol and I when she was visiting St Clare. I knew I wanted to give something back, as St Clare had played such a big part in both of our lives.”

“Now, I’m not a seasoned gardener by any means – if you asked me what type of leaf you had in your hand, I wouldn’t be able to tell you! However, I had lots of experience in my previous employment as a contractor with major banks, properties and estates, where I would maintain gardens and do major garden landscaping and building work for their sites.”

“So, I had a meeting with Paul, the Facilities Manager, and he showed me around the hospice properly and introduced me to the other volunteer gardeners. They were all on a tea break together, so I was quite nervous to meet them all at once! Yet, now when I look back, I realise it’s one of the best things I’ve ever done.”

“About a month after that initial meeting, they called me back and asked me to start volunteering in the garden right away. I met Chris, one of the other volunteers who has been helping out in the garden for many years – she’s a lovely lady.”

“I started out helping the other gardeners, maintaining the plants and putting in new flowers and shrubs. It was so easy to just start chatting to each other. Now, these wonderful people are my very good friends!”

“The gardening team are all selfless, incredible people. We come in every Tuesday, from 9am – 1pm, however, often end up staying late because we enjoy it so much! We’re out in the gardens, rain or shine, because we know that people are coming to visit the hospice and the beautiful gardens make such a difference – especially if you’re feeling anxious about coming in.”

“I think that we are really lucky to have a place like St Clare. So many people think that it is just a place that you come to die, and there is a lot of stigma around hospices, but they are so much more than that. I always tell people that St Clare does lots of different things – including supporting people like myself.”

“There are so many people in the local community who need support – if I could go and shout from the rooftops, ‘go to the hospice, they will help you!’ then I would! St Clare are literally changing lives, bridging the gap for people throughout their care and supporting local hospitals with their high numbers of patients.”

“Yet, when you come here, you just feel like the whole hospice is just for you – like there are no other people here. It’s special, and people have got time for you. I know that if I need to, I can just call up and talk to someone for support.”

“It’s actually like a little community here at St Clare. Whenever I’m out and about and see people collecting or fundraising for the charity, I get a good feeling, knowing I’m a part of it all too!”

“I think the garden also creates a lovely environment for staff too, who are here at the hospice around the clock, every single day. The nurses often comment on the new plants, which gives you quite a buzz knowing that you are making a difference! It’s like a jigsaw – it all clicks together.”

“That’s why I do it. It’s a great joy knowing I am giving back what St Clare gave to me and Carol. However, my role also gives back so much to me as well. My role lifts me up, chatting with all the people here and finding support in each other. It’s like a family.”

“I became friends with the other volunteer gardeners fairly quickly, and now we go out for walks together every week, sometimes going on trips together outside of St Clare. We often also help each other out, be it a leak in someone’s loft or a broken fence! We’re all here for each other. This place just brings out the goodness in people.”

“Volunteering at St Clare in the gardens is more than just a hobby – it’s something in your heart that just means so much. I always help out in any way that I can, whether it’s supporting the Facilities team with building-work, or marshalling at Fundraising events. Even my sons have taken on challenges to raise money for St Clare, including cycle rides and walks, in memory of their mum.”

“My volunteering as a gardener holds a special place in my heart because of what it meant to Carol. Gardening is all about nurturing, growth and life, and I feel good knowing that I am making a difference to others. It is my way of honouring Carol’s legacy.”

– Chris

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