9,077 Hospice at Home visits, 1,740 dedicated volunteers, 3,170 counselling and social work support sessions, and countless cups of tea – this is just some of what it takes for St Barnabas House to provide end of life care for local people and their loved ones.
St Barnabas House is joining forces with more than 200 hospices across the UK to celebrate Hospice Care Week (7-13 October); seven days of action which aims to raise awareness of hospice care – an essential arm of the UK’s health and care system.
Following the Hospice Care Week theme, ‘This is What it Takes’, St Barnabas will be taking to social media to provide a look behind the scenes at all of the work that goes into funding and providing free hospice care to over 1,786 local people each year.
Jack and David’s story
Jack Devonport, 24 from Southwick, first became aware of St Barnabas House two years ago and has set himself a 625-mile walking challenge to raise money for the charity. “I charged out of the final assignment of my university degree to a missed call from my mum,” he says. “My dad had been told he had terminal lung cancer. One of the reasons he is still here is due to the fantastic work of everyone at the hospice. I couldn’t think of a better cause to walk for.”
Since August, Jack has walked 180 miles along the Monarch’s Way – an ancient 625-mile footpath which runs from Worcester to Shoreham-by-Sea, said to be the escape route taken by King Charles II in 1651 after being defeated in the Battle of Worcester. He has challenged himself to complete the whole 625-mile route before the end of the year.
The University of Sussex student, who originally set himself the challenge of raising £625 – a pound for every mile walked of the Monarch’s Way – has already smashed his target and looks set to raise over £1,000 for St Barnabas House.
“I had no idea how long it was going to take me. In walking the entire length of the Monarch’s Way, I’ll cover the distance of London to Milan, ascending a total distance equivalent to climbing Mount Everest and then some! Dad and I live a mile from where the Monarch’s Way finishes in Shoreham-by-Sea, and plan on walking the last stretch together at Christmas time.”
Jack’s dad, David Devonport, 59, was referred to St Barnabas in January 2017 where he has attended the Day Hospice and currently benefits from a range of services including physiotherapy and complementary therapy.
“I think that when Jack saw the change in me after coming to St Barnabas he wanted to do something to help support the hospice” David says.
“I was diagnosed with lung cancer in April 2016, three weeks after I retired as train driver for Southern Rail. The doctors told me I had six months to live, so I feel really lucky to be here still.
“The December before I came to St Barnabas, I was really unwell – I’d been taken off my steroids which caused me to feel dreadful and I had stopped eating and lost a lot of weight. I was so close to just giving up and it was a worrying time for my family and friends.
“That’s when Dot, one of the hospice’s specialist community nurses came to visit me at home. She was absolutely brilliant and helped with everything from arranging physiotherapy sessions, to pain management, sorting out benefits that I didn’t know I was entitled to, and even arranging for our family home to be adapted so that I could get around more easily.
“When I was referred to St Barnabas, I did think that it was a place that you come to pop you clogs, but when I got here I realised it wasn’t at all. I was really surprised. The hospice is all about celebrating life, being positive and pushing on. The care I have received from all the staff and volunteers has been fantastic, you can talk to them about anything and they are there for you when you need them.
“My wife and I are so proud of Jack for taking on the Monarch’s Way challenge. Whatever he raises will help another person to receive the same care that I have been fortunate to have, and I hope that it makes a difference for them in the same way it has for me.”
Rosemarie Finley, CEO at St Barnabas House says: “During Hospice Care Week, we will be shining a spotlight on what it takes to run the hospice – giving people a ‘behind the scenes’ look at all the resources and equipment needed, and the individuals whose dedication and expertise make it all possible.
“Hospices rely on the goodwill of their local communities to deliver services, and St Barnabas House would not exist without the extraordinary efforts of you, our supporters. Whether you fundraise, donate, or volunteer, please get involved in Hospice Care Week by helping spread the word to friends and family or joining in the conversation on social media.”
Have you got ‘What it Takes’ to volunteer as Community Companion?
Community Companion, Liam O’Kane from Worthing has been visiting Bob Freeman from East Preston for six months. Every week, they go for a coffee. Bob always looks forward to his Companion visiting as it means he’s able to get out and about. He says, “It’s wonderful to have Liam come along, we click, and we clicked right from the start”.
Liam enjoys visiting Bob just as much, “When I go out on a Wednesday, I just see it as going for a coffee with a mate. I think that’s how we see each other.”
Community Companion volunteers provide social support to hospice patients and their carers in the local community. This might include going out for a coffee, like Liam and Bob; taking a stroll around the local park; or visiting a patient at home so their carer can take a break for a couple of hours.
Online only: If you think you have what it takes to volunteer as a Community Companion, there is an informal Community Companion volunteer recruitment open morning taking place at St Barnabas House during Hospice Care Week, on Wednesday 9 October, 10am–12pm.
For more information, visit www.stbh.org.uk/community-companions or call 01903 706360.