Over the last year North London Hospice has matched 91 people with Compassionate Neighbours– a scheme that links people willing to volunteer their time, companionship and support with those facing a potentially life-limiting or chronic illnesses in their community who need a little help or company.
Compassionate Neighbours are helping people facing terminal illness stay connected to their community - whether it’s trips to the shops or community groups or simply having someone pop by for a cuppa and a chat at their home each week.
In Haringey there is a growing number of people hoping to utilise the project and North London Hospice provides a two-day training course for anyone interested in becoming a Compassionate Neighbour.
Volunteers are matched with people who live within their community and often have similar interests, providing opportunities for good conversation.
You may wonder how Compassionate Neighbours benefits people, so here we share the experience of Corinne Rodriguez, who has benefited from the kindness of two volunteers.
Corinne Rodriguez has a lifetime of achievements adorning the walls of her home, thanks to a 40 year career as a Casting Director.
Photos of Liberace take pride of place in the kitchen – Corinne was in charge of his fan club, a role that led to her being expelled from school aged 15 for skipping class to meet him. With no qualifications, she began clerical work with the English Stage Company at the Royal Court Theatre and by the age of 21 – after a brief spell with the managers of The Kinks – she was asked to return to become their youngest ever Casting Director.
Fast forward through more than four decades at many London theatres, TV shows such as The Gentle Touch, Whoops Apocalypse, London’s Burning and films including Essex Boys with Sean Bean, and we reach 2008, when Corinne was diagnosed with breast cancer. She underwent successful treatment and was put on medication for five years, and as she says “Life was good.”
“Then the cancer returned and it had gone to my bones.”
Corinne has had a two-year association with North London Hospice’s Health & Wellbeing Centre to help her with symptom control for secondary breast cancer.
A strong independent woman but, with no immediate family and close friends in other parts of the UK, Corinne has had to cope alone with her illness and the effects of her chemotherapy.
During one of her visits to our Health & Wellbeing Centre, Corinne was asked if she would be interested in joining our Compassionate Neighbours programme. “I thought it was a lovely idea. If my health was more stable I would apply to be one!” she said.
Corinne met several volunteers. “I really hit it off with Mumtaz. We found we had lots to chat about and we began to meet every few weeks. “
During Corinne’s cycles of long chemotherapy at North Middlesex Hospital Mumtaz would often keep her company. “Mumtaz meets me there, we have a meal and she stays with me while I have my treatment. It’s a nice distraction.”
Rebecca Eastick, Community Development Project Manager for Compassionate Neighbours, said: “When volunteers take part in the training we get to know them a little and look for interests and personality traits that might work well with those that have asked to be linked with Compassionate Neighbours.
“The scheme enables people to stay connected to their community and avoid social isolation.”
Mumtaz Ahmad decided to become a Compassionate Neighbour after her husband experienced the benefits of having two. “He finds them great company so I thought I would like to become one. It gives you an amazing feeling of being able to help someone in your neighbourhood. Although, sometimes I think I get more out of it than Corinne! She’s so interesting and I love hearing about her knowledge of the theatre and books. I learn something new every time we meet.
“There are different reasons for having a Compassionate Neighbour, whether it’s for support or company, but if you are able to give your time to become one, you will get just as much out of it as they do.”
Recently Corinne was introduced to Lisa, who’s working on a book about theatrical history. “We thought they’d have a lot in common and it’s worked out really well,” Added Rebecca. “It’s been a great introduction and quite reciprocal. Corinne was able to help Lisa with her research and Lisa offered to help Corinne sort some of her memorabilia to ensure it goes to the appropriate place for future posterity.”
Could You Become A Compassionate Neighbour?
All people with all skills are welcome. As a Compassionate Neighbour, you will decide what, when and how you can help the community around you. The first step is to get in touch to register your interest at:
Call: 020 8343 6806
Volunteers must be over the age of 18. North London Hospice will provide the training and on-going support. Training is informal, fun and thought provoking. You will explore how you can use your compassion to help others and we will help you to have the confidence to support people in your community. Training and support is provided free of charge and includes refreshments and lunch.