Stories

How it feels to be a compassionate neighbour

“Everyone takes you as you are”

Anthony

Reciprocity

“It has changed him a lot and changed me too”

Kito

Trust

“It helps her build trust with the outside world”

Susan

Diversity & Inclusivity

“When I come here I feel more confident and happy”

Keyf, Compassionate Neighbour &
Carly Attridge, Head of Vounteering St Joseph’s

Joy and Judea

“It’s a natural friendship, you can’t buy that”

Case Studies

Harry & Dave’s Story

Harry

“I was diagnosed with Parkinson’s 16 years ago, but it is only in the last few years that it has really got worse. It’s especially hard work for my wife.”
“Someone at the Hospice said they were setting up the Compassionate Neighbours project and asked if I would like to try it. I will try anything! So I said ‘Yes’.”
“It’s been good! I have enjoyed having Dave as a partner, he’s a really nice bloke. I think we have a similar sense of humour, and we like similar things.”
“Before I had a Compassionate Neighbour, I wasn’t getting out at all. I can’t walk very far and I can’t drive anywhere these days. But Dave has given me confidence, and shown me that I can try different things now.”
“This year, Dave and I have been fishing, played chess, played golf, visited Leigh on Sea and Finchingfield. Dave even asked if my wife wanted to go out for the day, with his wife as well, so the four of us went on a trip. He didn’t tell us where we were going, but me and my wife guessed because I also used to drive us to Finchingfield when I was fit and healthy. It’s a beautiful village.”
“It had been a few years since I had fished, when Dave suggested that we should try going together. Dave drove us to a local fishing lake and we parked up. I don’t think Dave had really fished much before, so I showed him what to do. It was lovely in the sun. We were there for a few hours. We didn’t catch anything, but you’ve got to fish to enjoy. You can enjoy it without even catching anything.”
“Compassionate Neighbours helped me to get back to doing something that I love. Dave gave me the confidence I needed to go out and about again, in spite of my Parkinson’s.”
“It has led me to do other things, without Dave, as well. I have even been fishing with my brother-in-law now, who had never fished before, and I taught him what to do. Compassionate Neighbours has helped to give me the confidence I needed.”
“I would say to anyone thinking of getting involved with the Compassionate Neighbours project to give it a go! Compassionate Neighbours has really helped me.” 

Dave

“It got me fired up to do something about loneliness in my own area, and then I saw the advert for Compassionate Neighbours.”
“I know that loneliness is a very big problem in our country, and they say that in the near future loneliness could become one of the biggest killers, so I thought it sounded like a project I wanted to get involved with.”
“I came along and took part in the Compassionate Neighbours training, and then was paired with a guy called Harry. I remember meeting Harry and his wife for the first time. We were laughing and joking straight away. We have a laugh and get on well.”
“We are both from a similar background and we have bonded over the things we both enjoy. We have a laugh together, and he takes the mick out of me – and we have the blokey banter together.”
“My standout memory has to be when we went fishing together. Harry hadn’t fished for a few years, and I don’t fish very well, but he had all the gear so we decided to give it a try. We didn’t catch anything that day, but Harry absolutely loved it anyway. I looked over at him several times, and he was totally relaxed and I thought ‘wow, he’s really getting something out of this.’ That is all I want to see really, that he is getting something out of his time with me.”
“Being a Compassionate Neighbour is definitely rewarding for me too. I enjoy doing something for someone else on a personal level, and I like knowing that I am helping someone.”
“I think Compassionate Neighbours is a first class idea, and I can already see that if you help take someone out of their loneliness, it can benefit their physical and mental health as well, and help them become a different person. I really commend the project for doing that, and I am proud to be part of it.”

 

Lee

Limetree Court Social Club

I think it’s been a success because the social club gets people to come out of their flats and come to you for support. The hub means everyone is connecting together. I often hear people are meeting each other at different times in the week.

It’s opened up their lives to each other. Before, people were sat alone and now their differences are put aside and there’s a real sense of community. Residents are opening up to us and confiding in us, which is really nice and our relationships are really building up.

I get loads out if it! I look forward to it every week – it makes me feel special because everyone is so appreciative of what I do. I really enjoy meeting up with the other compassionate neighbours too – we have developed meaningful relationships. I leave there really satisfied, feeling really good. It has developed my own compassion, in the past I wouldn’t have had the patience for some situations I’ve found myself in but now I have the confidence and patience to stick with it and feel like I’ve really helped people. I’ve definitely developed as a person and I’m so glad I bumped into Joy and decided to get involved.

I like being a part of the wider compassionate neighbours community. I feel engaged and it feels good looking at the WhatsApp and seeing all of the things that are going on.

Last week I said good morning to Ray who looked grumpy and didn’t respond. When I took my hat off he realised it was me and his face lit up and he joined me for a cup of tea. That felt really good.

Being a compassionate neighbour has helped me to learn to be stronger inside, to recognise what I can help with and what

Agnes and Lucia

How has this project changed things for you?

Agnes: Before I stayed home alone, no-one talked to me and now Lucia takes me out, I wish she will be with me now and forever. Without the compassionate neighbours project my situation would be bad, I’d sit at home the whole day and not be able to go anywhere no one comes to visit, so there is no-one to talk to you. Sometimes you go crazy and you even want to kill yourself, I was think, thinking about death more and more before I saw Joy from the Compassionate Neighbours project who said she would bring someone to me. I have a good person in Lucia. All my thinking has gone, now I don’ think these thoughts before I go to bed. My thinking for the night has stopped, before when I was sleeping I get up around 2am in the morning and sit down thinking, thinking, thinking. Sometimes I cry, why me? I have friends but no-one turns up to see me, why? I needed to go back to the hospital because no one was paying me a visit and if I was in hospital then people came to see me. I was very lucky to meet Joy and find Lucia. Before I would visit friends or they would visit me but since my amputation they said when they see me they feel sad so they don’t want to come and see me. Now if they come to my house and say anything sad to me, I don’t want to hear it….

I want to say thank you to Joy and Lucia, you have changed my life. Now I can see sunshine and come out for the fresh air but before I was inside like a prisoner. If I forced myself to come out I would fall down. That building to come out is not easy, even my front door is too heavy for me to open it, when I’m coming out if no-one is about I fall over. It’s a building designed for people less able but I still can’t get out. Lucia’s there for me, she asks me where I want to go, previously my support worker brought me a cup of hot water and when I asked for a cup of tea she told me to get it myself, I told her not to disturb me and not to come again.

Lucia: We are more like family and some of things she says reminds me of my mum. The match is just right, we have formed a great friendship; we have the same sense of humour, the personality, everything just clicks even though Agnes is from Ghana and my parental background from St Lucia. We share our cultural experiences, I’m learning more about her Ghanaian culture, which is all new for me. We talk about everything, about children, our families and have been sharing our family photos, I have met Agnes’ family and  some of her friends, her family now introduce me as part of their family.

I’ve really enjoyed being part of making a difference to someone’s life, it’s made me refer others to the project. I’ve seen the change in Agnes, she has become more confident, independent and she’s much happier now and enjoying life. I’ve been watching her on her journey as she’s moved home she has become more empowered and has now re-connected to her community. She has been out on her own and is always involved in any of the events where she lives she is sometimes the first one in the communal lounge. Getting involved has also opened my eyes to the world of the hospice. I’ve also found out more about the hospice, I used to go past on the bus and now know that it is a  place that’s alive and about life not death.

I’m really pleased I volunteered for the Compassionate Neighbours project. So much so that I am working on the project full time and have now become one of the project co-ordinators

Lindsey and D

I was introduced to my current Community Member in March 2017, so we have been ‘together’ for just over a year.  We really hit it off from the moment we met.  Although D is more than twenty years older than me we have both spent a lot of our lives living in the same areas.  She lives on the 6th floor and has a panoramic view of north London and we could identify places that we both knew, many of them looking very different from the way they once had, which gave us lots to talk about immediately.  I think it was clear straight away that we were going to get on really well.

D has lots of really interesting memories and she enjoys talking about the past, especially about when she was a child and then a young woman.  D was happy for me to record some of her war-time memories when one of my grand-children was doing a school project on WWII. She had a long working life and a very happy marriage, she misses her late husband badly and often feels very isolated.

We go out for walks, for coffee or lunch, shopping and sometimes I accompany D to medical appointments.  Mostly I got to visit her and we have a chat and a hot drink.  I have two dogs and since D is a great animal-lover she is always keen to see them and make a huge fuss of them, she spoils them horribly. D is very independent but she likes me to look at any ‘official’ letters she gets so that I can reassure her and suggest any action that might be needed.  Sometimes I contact agencies on her behalf as she has problems with her memory and finds it hard to retain information if she only receives it over the phone.

Both of us really appreciate having found a new friend, we share a sense of humour and spend a lot of time laughing.  I think I am able to give D more confidence to cope with life and I can go some way to help with the loneliness and anxiety she experiences.  I can often sort out things that worry D quite easily and I get a sense of achievement if I can make her life a little less difficult and more enjoyable.

Kito & Joseph

Kito came to England from Laos as a teenager and, after finishing his studies, qualified as a chef. He later married and had a son. His son is autistic and Kito is his full time carer.

With his son now at school, Kito decided he wanted to get out and meet people. He picked up a leaflet about the Compassionate Neighbours project and signed up for the training course. He admits at first he didn’t say anything; he felt shy and worried he’d say something silly. But he soon found new confidence and by the end he felt the group were a family and they all now keep in touch.

He was matched with Joseph, who apart from attending day hospice and the neuro group at St Joseph’s, rarely had company. They met twice at the hospice and decided they liked each other. Kito visits Joseph every week and also pops in if he’s shopping nearby. They have become firm friends.

They talk about everything and anything from politics and news to films and sport. Joseph likes a bit of a joke too; when Kito makes him a coffee he’ll say it’s “disgusting” but he says it with a twinkle in his eye. Joseph really looks forward to Kito’s visits and dresses smartly when he knows he’s coming. When he pops round as a surprise Joseph often says “I’m not ready, I’ve got my pyjamas on” but he’s always pleased to see him. Kito says becoming a Compassionate Neighbour has changed his life. “I have so much confidence now. I have learnt to really listen to people and let them do the talking. I really think that Compassionate Neighbour training has helped my relationship with my son too. With my new found confidence I’m planning to do some cookery teaching; sushi is my speciality.”

Joseph

“When they asked me if I wanted a Compassionate Neighbour I thought ‘why not?’ I’d say to anyone thinking about it to go ahead, it’s a great idea. Kito is really good fun, I really look forward to seeing him. He tells me stories that make me laugh and we talk about everything. I hope he will always be my friend and he’s promised to cook something for me one day.”

Sarah

Compassionate Neighbour since 2016

“When I retired I knew I wanted to volunteer at St Joseph’s. I visit the wards, I sit and talk to people. And I make myself available to do their shopping, whatever they may need help with. It gives me a lot of joy to be able to do this.

“I visit one lady who confides in me a lot and if that helps make her feel better then that is a good thing. I’m also waiting to be matched up as a Compassionate Neighbour, to visit people in their homes.  I can’t help spreading the news about Compassionate Neighbours to other hospices, it really gives me great joy to spread the word. I can’t stop telling people how wonderful the work is that St Joseph’s does.

“My wish is to continue to be part of St Joseph’s and promote the philosophy of living until our last day. This is what St Joseph’s is about. You do not go there to die, you need to carry on.  The way the patients are cared for is unbelievable and in a way the volunteers are a slight extension of that, reaching out and filtering goodness.”

Anthony

Compassionate Neighbour since 2017

Three years ago 54 year old Anthony was happily living with his girlfriend Doreen who was 43. He sat at home one evening waiting for her to come home from her job as a chef and as it got later and later and she still wasn’t home he started to worry. At around 7.30pm he got a call from the hospital to say that Doreen had had an asthma attack and he needed to get to there as soon as possible. Sadly Doreen couldn’t be saved and her family made the decision to switch off her life support two days later. Anthony was by her side and as he said goodbye to her he could see tears in her eyes.

After Doreen’s death Anthony was lost. His mum had died a few years before and he still missed her. Although his friends tried to help he felt like he was in limbo and was worried that he would do something destructive to try and forget everything. He didn’t want to turn to drink or drugs as he knew that wouldn’t help.

He made the decision that helping someone else would maybe make him feel better. He went to the Volunteer Centre Hackney and they asked him what he wanted to do. They contacted St Joseph’s Hospice, he filled in an application form and went to meet with Volunteer Co-ordinator Simon Bennett. He did a volunteers test and passed, the first test he had ever passed and he was thrilled and so proud. He decided to enrol on the Compassionate Neighbours training and he loved it from day one.

He thought that being dyslexic may hold him back but the project leaders, Joy Kahumbu and Richard Julian really helped and reassured him.

Susan

Compassionate Neighbour since 2017

“Every time I came past here on the bus I thought, ‘I must volunteer at St Joseph’s Hospice’. And then suddenly I said, ‘Right, I’m going to go and do it now!’

“I do Compassionate Neighbours. We go out in the community and meet with somebody who is very isolated in their home. You stay with that one person until they don’t want you visit anymore. They could be any age but it’s mostly older people and particularly people who are ill. There is an enormous amount of people who are isolated, men and women. It’s surprising how many people never see anyone at all. They are completely forgotten.

“I get a lot out of it. I feel that I’m using my time in a very constructive way and it helps put one’s own life in a bit of perspective. It’s also about meeting other people that you may not necessarily meet in your everyday life. It’s very rewarding.”

Judy and Anna

Anna – “The first time I hear about St Christopher’s was from my neighbour. Her mother passed away at the hospice a few years ago and they helped her a lot. She said it would be a great idea to visit St Christopher’s as I have had a problem with cancer since 2014. I also have problems with my health, with housing, with daily living and St Christopher’s helps me. I met my social worker, I met nurses here and I met physiotherapists. One day, Steph called me and asked if we could meet about a new project. She visited me at home because I’m epileptic and it’s difficult for me to get to the hospice. She explained the project and asked me what my preferences are; who I’d like to meet and why I’d like to meet them. She said that she couldn’t promise anything, but she would try to find someone who I could meet with and talk to. So that was the beginning. I found with Judy that we clicked straight away, we started to talk and it was very simple.”

Judy – “I’m trying to remember when we first met – I think it was at the end of last year. I had a bit of an issue with a cancer scare so I was volunteering at St Christopher’s in the Anniversary Centre when I was up to it. When Compassionate Neighbours came up, I’d finished all my treatment and thought I’d like to get involved. We first met at St Christopher’s with Steph and we just got on immediately. Anna has the same sense of humour as me and she is also very open. We just gelled.”

Anna – “We then met at my place and at Judy’s place. We actually used to live very nearby, but unfortunately I moved a few months ago to New Cross. Judy has been fantastic with the move; she even brings my son home from school from Sydenham which is quite far away. She helps me at least once a week and I’m very glad because I’m struggling with my health and my mobility.”

Judy – “I just find Anna the most amazing person. I mean she struggles with her health, but she’s always so positive. She just gets on with it and never complains. We’re both on the same wavelength. We both love classical music and I’m still waiting to take her to a concert. We also both like walking; Anna is building up her strength and we go walking in the park or around town.”

Anna – “When I met Judy, I found out that she is a teacher. I used to learn English in school and was thinking about studying English in the future if my health lets me. Judy helps me a lot, she started giving me lessons and she corrected my homework and my writing so that’s brilliant. She is a great teacher and a great person. I respect Judy very much you know, she’s like my London mum.”

Judy – “We were some of the first people to be matched in this area. Every day on the news you hear about how they’ve just knocked the resources for professionals so it’s up to us as a community to help each other.”

Anna – “I think that Compassionate Neighbours is a very good idea. If someone is scared or not well enough to go out, it’s good for them to talk about their problems. They might have hearing problems, speaking problems or other health problems and might be worried about sharing their problems or talking about their illness. Things can look like they are impossible, but when you share your problems it really helps.”

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