Friendships flourish through project

Stacey Towler

Stacey Towler at the hospice says the project brings mutual benefits to everyone involved. - Credit: St Clare Hospice

A St Clare Hospice project in which volunteers give an hour a week to support people who are isolated, is celebrating its third anniversary.

The Compassionate Neighbours project began in April 2018 with Margaret Porter from Saffron Walden as was one of its first volunteers.

She was paired with Jane, whose sister had moved into a nursing home and later died.

Jane's dog, Griff, had also died around this time.

However, thanks to the scheme, Margaret was paired with Jane and she began visiting her once a week with her dog, Eddie.


Jane's dog Griff. - Credit: St Clare Hospice

Margaret said: “I suppose the pleasure I got out of it was that I knew that there was someone Jane could talk to and ask questions about how to manage some of the difficult things she was coping with, like the death of her sister."

In total 166 volunteers have trained to become volunteers.

Most Read

A core feature of the scheme is the mutual benefit for the volunteer as well as the member of the community.

Due to Covid-19 restrictions volunteers currently provide support via the phone or by video call.


Margaret's dog Eddie. - Credit: St Clare Hospice

Stacey Towler, Compassionate Neighbours Project Manager, said: “When I look back to the beginning of the project, in March 2018, I never thought that the initial group of volunteers would make so much difference.

“I always knew this project was important, but I didn’t realise how vital it would grow to be in just three years, but it fills me with great pride to have played a part in bringing friendship into the lives of people who are nearing the end of their lives and are lonely.

“I’m so glad that our project was already established and was able to easily adapt to support more people during the pandemic, as rates of isolation and loneliness increased – especially amongst older people, and those who are already frail and vulnerable from their conditions.

“The beauty of this project is that it brings mutual benefits to everyone involved; it’s been such a delight matching people and seeing their friendships flourish over the last three years.”