Have you heard about Compassionate Neighbours? It’s a programme that introduces trained volunteers with people in their local area who have become isolated or lonely, and/or who are nearing end of life due to old age or illness.
The programme was started almost ten years ago at St Joseph’s Hospice in East London: here at Greenwich & Bexley Community Hospice our compassionate neighbours programme has been running for five years.
Since we began, we’ve trained around 270 volunteers, many of whom have gone on to become compassionate neighbours, visiting people in their community. Over the coming months, we want to train even more people.
How does it work?
Anyone can train to become a compassionate neighbour. We welcome people of all ages and from all walks of life. All we ask is that volunteers can spare an hour a week to touch the life of someone who can benefit from the support and some social interaction. Once trained, our volunteers are matched with someone in their local area – often within walking distance. Matches are typically based on where you live, shared hobbies and interests, or backgrounds. When a match is made, we’ll make the introductions and from then the new friendship can blossom. We’re not prescriptive, so our matches decide how to spend their time together.
Jon Devlin is Associate Director at the hospice and leads our Compassionate Neighbours work. He explained “The programme is a great way to connect people who can offer support and interaction, with those who need it but it has wider-reaching benefits too because it can also connect the hospice with people who may need our care in the future.“
Not all matches are hospice patients. As a result of the training, some people feel empowered to go on to find their own matches. It might be they have a neighbour down the road who they know is older and lives alone, for example. And the training gives them the confidence to reach out to them and a structure to know how they might go about it. This helps us to make sure that our services reach even further into the community – to those who might not need our services now but might in the future.
Jon said “In the five years that we’ve been delivering the training, we’ve seen examples of the programme taking on a life of its own with offshoot support groups forming, and with compassionate neighbours becoming true friends with the people we introduce them to.
We believe that everyone who is dying should have a friend. We want to see the programme grow because there so many more people who would benefit if support was offered to them.
Jon adds “Care and support is about more than just symptom management – and in many cases, it can change people’s lives. It can give them something to look forward to and re-engage them in the things that were important to them but have been difficult to keep going.”
Can you offer friendship or a listening ear to someone in the community who needs it?
If you have an hour to spare a week and can offer friendship or a listening ear to a lonely or isolated person in your area, please contact us. We run training courses throughout the year and we’ll take you through everything you need to know.
Email email@example.com or visit communityhospice.org.uk/cn.