Sarah: “I’m helping to provide a great service to the local community”
Sarah Thomson from Canterbury recently became a Volunteer Complementary Therapist at Pilgrims Hospices. After completing her induction, Sarah now offers complementary therapies to hospice patients and carers. Here, she talks about her role and what motivates her to volunteer for Pilgrims.
Complementary therapy has been part of the hospice movement almost from the start. Hospices are holistic. Massage, touch, holding hands, giving people a hug or putting an arm round their shoulder is truly compassionate. It’s something that everyone can benefit from. People with a life limiting illness who are receiving palliative care can become isolated, so any form of calm, caring touch is beneficial.
Sarah is registered blind and trained in massage and complementary therapies at the Royal National College for the Blind (RNC). She has volunteered at a pamper day at the Thanet hospice, and aims to keep honing her skills so that she can continue to support local people who are living with an incurable illness.
What made you want to become a complementary therapist?
I have always been interested in holistic therapies. I’ve had my own health problems over the years and I wanted to know how to help myself, so that’s how it started. I offer a variety of therapies including massage and reflexology, which is an ancient technique that uses pressure points on the feet to detect imbalances in the body and helps to clear blockages.
How did you become a volunteer for Pilgrims?
I’d just moved to Canterbury and was walking into town, trying to teach myself the routes. I walked past the Canterbury hospice and thought, ‘I wonder if they need a complementary therapist?’ I expressed an interest and then the Canterbury volunteer centre contacted me and said there were volunteer roles available at Pilgrims Hospices, so I jumped at the opportunity and contacted them straight away. I’m gaining valuable experience and helping to provide a great service to the local community, that’s the main thing.
Through volunteering, how do you hope to develop your skills in the future?
I’m currently training as a reiki practitioner to add to my existing skills. This is a healing therapy where you don’t use your hands, but you do touch the whole body in a set pattern and channel natural energy into it in a very specific way. I’d love to have my own practice eventually. I have a Facebook page because it’s something I really want to build into a profession.
Tell us your volunteer story on social media by using the hashtags #PilgrimsLife and #VolunteerVoices.
Volunteers’ Week is a chance to say thank you for the fantastic contribution millions of volunteers make across the UK. It takes place 1-7 June every year and is an opportunity to celebrate volunteering in all its diversity.
We’re accredited by REVAMP, a quality mark for Volunteer Involving Organisations developed by Stronger Kent Communities, a leading provider of support for the voluntary sector in Kent.
17th May 2019
Local fundraising group raises thousands for hospice care
The Bramling Fundraising Group based in Canterbury has once again excelled in its fundraising for Pilgrims, raising £11,600 during 2018 for local hospice care and taking its total to over £78,000!
The group was formed in 2003 when locals Kim and Jo Tatman, who were new to the village of Bramling, decided to bring back some community spirit by organising a local village fete. Pilgrims was the local cause they chose to fundraise for.
Kim, Group Coordinator, said: “Bramling village didn’t appear to have any events when we arrived and so between us and our neighbours we set about planning a village fete. It was clear that Pilgrims is a cause that is close to so many people’s hearts so we knew it would be a deserving cause to support.”
We are all determined to continue our support and we hope to reach the magic milestone of £100,000.
Kim Tatman, Bramling Fundraising Group
Over the last 15 years, their fundraising has grown and the variety of fundraising activities organised include race nights, produce shows, quiz nights, Elvis nights and lots more.
Leila Ilkhan, Pilgrims Hospices Community Fundraising Manager, said: “We are overwhelmed by the support that Kim, Jo and their friends in the Bramling Fundraising Group give to Pilgrims each year. It is great to see a community work together for one cause with so much passion and energy.
“As the group go into their 16th year, we hear that a skydive might be on the cards as well as sponsored runs, walks and garden parties!”
Kim added: “We are all determined to continue our support and we hope to reach the magic milestone of £100,000 in a couple of years.”
If you are inspired by the Bramling Fundraising Group and feel that you would like to start a fundraising group in your local area, please get in touch with Leila Ilkhan for more information: email@example.com.
This year alone, Pilgrims Hospices has to raise £11 million through voluntary donations in order to run our full range of services. Sponsorship raised through events like these helps us to continue caring for local people at the end of their lives.
13th May 2019
Pilgrims therapy sessions are making a huge difference for Edgar
Edgar Evans is 91-years-old, he regularly attends Pilgrims Hospices Therapy Centre in Ashford not only to help him maintain his fitness and independence but to join with others and try activities that interest him and keep his mind and body active. Every visit is an opportunity to engage in a friendly and welcoming environment with people who are also managing life-limiting symptoms and conditions.
My first experience of Pilgrims Hospices came in 2017 when my wife Edna was cared for by Pilgrims community care team. After Edna passed away, Pilgrims visited me on several occasions to check on my wellbeing. I can only describe the care we both received as exceptional.
In 2018 I was diagnosed with cardiac and kidney problems myself. Upon my return home from the hospital, Pilgrims made contact to discuss the support they could offer and shared a number of options available within their Therapy Centres.
At first, I admit I felt dubious and a little anxious about attending the hospice, however, I agreed to ‘give it a go’.
The whole experience was wonderful. I was collected from my home in Hythe by a Pilgrims volunteer driver and greeted by nurses at the Ashford hospice. I was escorted to a lovely comfortable day room, which I can only describe as being like a top-class hotel. After introductions to the warm and friendly staff and others attending the therapy sessions, we were offered refreshments and a chance to get to know one another. I felt welcome and comfortable straight away.
I’ve been able to try a number of activities that I really never thought would be of interest to me. It’s given me new skills and helps me keep my mind and body active. I’ve tried sugar icing on cakes, painting, Christmas decorations, crafts and flower arranging to name but a few.
The massage, gym sessions and sit down and get fit classes have helped with aches and pains and given me the confidence to exercise and maintain my fitness.
It’s been nice to share some of Pilgrims’ kindness with my family, Pilgrims invited them to enjoy a pamper day with me, which helped them to understand the benefit of my time spent at the hospice.
It’s definitely the highlight of my week, being with the care team who really understand my needs and talking to people who are also dealing with similar conditions and symptoms helps me to speak with confidence about my needs in a relaxed atmosphere.
I’m always treated to a tasty lunch and the staff provide therapy, care, and kindness in abundance.
If you are offered an opportunity to take advantage of a Pilgrims Therapy Centre, please do say yes, you will definitely find benefits within the warmth of the hospice team and develop new friendships along the way.
If you or someone you know is coping with a life-limiting illness and you think you may benefit from Pilgrims support, talk to your GP or Healthcare Professional about the options or click here for information on the Wellbeing and Social Programme.
10th May 2019
Pilgrims Hospices helps Mario to leave lasting legacy
Mario Romeiro from Folkestone has had an interesting and varied life. Born into the travelling circus, his trapeze act Mario and the Flying Romeiros performed all over the UK and he later married into a fairground family. After being diagnosed with Ampullary carcinoma, a rare form of cancer, Mario is now preparing for the last part of his life with the help of Pilgrims Hospices.
Ever since his diagnosis Mario has been recording his experiences, initially by writing a cancer diary. He wasn’t able to be with his family to break the news, so the diary helped him to communicate everything to them. Then, in August 2018 Mario was referred to Pilgrims Hospices and began accessing services at the Ashford hospice. He attends Time to Create sessions in the Therapy Centre, where patients and carers spend the afternoon together doing art and craft projects. Naturally skilled at drawing, Mario has a BTEC qualification in Art and Design and enjoys these creative groups.
He said: “The Pilgrims team are brilliant. If I have any problems I can tell them how I feel and they’ll help to make sure I’m keeping well and that my symptoms are managed.”
At first, all I heard was ‘cancer’. It doesn’t need to be like that. Pilgrims has helped me to live well; coming to the Time to Create groups is really good for me, otherwise I’d just sit at home. I come here and meet others in the same situation and that really helps.
Mario also does tattoo work from home. His youngest daughter, Rebecca (21), has asked him to tattoo ‘I love you’ on her arm in his own handwriting. The family are preparing in lots of other ways, too. Mario is planning his funeral to take the pressure off his loved ones and make things as easy for them as possible. He has chosen to be cremated, and his children plan to have his ashes made into jewellery as a special keepsake.
His oldest daughter, Sammy Jo, had asked Mario to make voice recordings after he was diagnosed, so The Blackbird Projectarrived at the perfect time. This is a new service offered by Pilgrims, enabling patients to record messages for loved ones and store them on bespoke blackbird-shaped USB sticks to keep forever.
Mario said: “I’ve got to learn how to die gracefully. That means not being as stubborn and letting people know how I’m feeling. I’m recording goodbyes and thank yous, my parting messages to the kids and the missus, so they can listen to them after I’m gone. There might be a time when they’re feeling a bit rubbish and then they can listen to my voice and remember: ‘Dad would want me to get off my bum and enjoy life.’ I hope my messages can help them in that way.
“I think some people can never say what they want to when people are there, so The Blackbird Project gives them that opportunity. It’s a great relief knowing that the recordings could bring comfort to family and loved ones.”
Pilgrims is helping Mario and his family to make the most of the time they have together. Asked what advice he would give to others in his position, he said:
“Don’t think it’s the end. At first, all I heard was ‘cancer’. It doesn’t need to be like that. Pilgrims has helped me to live well; coming to the Time to Create groups is really good for me, otherwise I’d just sit at home. I come here and meet others in the same situation and that really helps.”
InDying Matters Awareness Week, Pilgrims Hospices will host a day-long festival with speakers, workshops and stalls to provoke conversations about and provide information on death and dying.
From practical things like writing a will, to creating a beautiful and meaningful funeral and much, much more.
This is a free event with some ticketed sessions. All are welcome.
The Big Conversation: A day-long arts festival on death and dying
Pilgrims Hospices will host a mini arts festival on Saturday 18 May at its education centre on London Road, Canterbury.
It will bring together local community groups, artists, health professionals and businesses to run a series of interactive workshops, talks and information stalls, all designed to encourage reflection and conversation around death, dying and bereavement.
Talking about death and dying isn’t easy, and yet for those of us who have ever planned a funeral, lost someone they really loved or been confronted by their own mortality, we know that not being able to talk about it can be even harder.
That’s why the Pilgrims Hospices education team are hosting The Big Conversation, a day-long arts festival on Saturday 18 May that will bring together a range of local organisations and groups putting on a series of workshops, talks and an information fair, all designed to get people talking about death and dying.
The festival will form part of a wider national programme of events for Dying Matters Awareness Week 2019. This is a national campaign that aims to help people talk more openly about dying, death and bereavement and to make plans for the end of life.
The information fair will be open all day from 10am – 5pm and workshops are scheduled throughout the day at the Ann Robertson Centre, next door to the main hospice on London Road, Canterbury.
Boys & Maughan and Girlings law firms – Bring your legal questions and queries around wills, probate and power of attorney.
Pilgrims Hospices team and the Stepping Stones bereavement project – Find out about the support Pilgrims can offer to those living with a terminal condition and their families.
Entry to the information fair is free and staff and volunteers will be running a pop-up cafe at the education centre, selling teas, coffees and homemade cake throughout the day.
Wendy Hills, Director of Nursing and Care Services at Pilgrims Hospices, said:
“We want to engage with our local communities, using the creative arts to open up the conversation about death and dying. We hope that through our community engagement, we can help people to feel more comfortable in thinking about death and dying, and enable families, friends and communities to talk about their fears, beliefs and wishes.”
Listen to Mandy Williams from Pilgrims’ education team on Academy FM Thanet talking all things Dying Matters Awareness Week 2019:
The Big Conversation is kindly sponsored by Holly’s Funerals.
Pilgrims Hospices host community events throughout the year for the general public, aiming to open up the conversation about death and dying; with film screenings, poetry readings and Death Cafes and much more, there’s something for everyone.
Thousands raised as Cycle Challenge celebrates 10th year
Cyclists took to the Kentish countryside on a breezy Spring Bank Holiday Sunday for Pilgrims Hospices annual Cycle Challenge.
This year celebrates the 10th anniversary of this much-loved event. Almost 1,200 riders took part collectively cycling more than 94,000 miles to support end-of-life care in east Kent. Early indications show the event will raise over £100,000 for Pilgrims Hospices.
Individuals, families, friends, cycle clubs, local businesses, and services throughout Kent took up the 45, 75, 100 or the latest addition to the distances, the 125-mile ride, on the day. It was a stark contrast to last year’s early May Bank Holiday when the temperature soared into the high 20’s, recording the hottest since the holiday was introduced in 1978. A more temperate 13 degrees made for a more comfortable ride this year.
All routes started and finished at the Pilgrims event village at the University of Kent, near Canterbury. Returning cyclists could enjoy a sports massage and well-earned refreshment after collecting their 10th anniversary commemorative medal.
It was brilliant to see such a strong show of support for Pilgrims!
Robert Grew, Events Fundraiser at Pilgrims Hospices
Robert Grew, Pilgrims event organiser, said: “It was brilliant to see such a strong show of support for Pilgrims! We congratulate all the riders in achieving their goals and for their incredible support for the end of life care Pilgrims provides.
“It’s a privilege to organise the event and, seeing it year after year I’m always reminded how much of a team effort it is. Our army of volunteers are just outstanding and gave up their bank holiday weekend to help make the whole experience safe and enjoyable for our riders. I can’t thank them enough! Nor the waves of cyclists who puff their way around the course in support each year.”
There are many exciting events and challenges taking place throughout the year to raise important funds for Pilgrims Hospices, click here to see our event listings. If you would like to speak with your local fundraising team visit fundraise for us.
Care is provided from three hospice sites in Ashford, Canterbury, and Thanet as well as in patients’ own homes. To offer these services to patients and their families the charity must raise £11 million each year from the generous local community.