29th May 2020

    Pilgrims marks Volunteers’ Week with “WE MISS YOU!” message

    Staff and trustees at Pilgrims Hospices are counting down the days to Volunteers’ Week 2020. Now in its 36th year, Volunteers’ Week is held annually to celebrate the incredible contributions of millions of volunteers across the UK.

    In east Kent, more than 1600 people volunteer for Pilgrims’ and all work varying hours in a wide range of roles. From receptionist to retailer, fundraiser to therapist, gardener to caterer, the skills and experiences volunteers bring to the charity are vast.

    The COVID-19 pandemic has put on pause many voluntary activities, but Pilgrims’ is determined to celebrate and recognise the enormous difference volunteers make.

    Jeff Southon, Pilgrims’ Volunteer Services & HR Manager, comments: “Since late March this year, almost all of our volunteers have only been able to support us from home but they have been doing it in a variety of new ways. Our message to them is – we miss you!

    “We are very much looking forward to the day we can welcome back our volunteers. This week is all about saying thank you all for your unstinting support.”

    Volunteers are the backbone of our organisation

    Helen Bennett – Pilgrims Hospices Acting CEO

    During lockdown, volunteers have donated to Pilgrims’ Still here, Still Caring fundraising appeal, and supported the charity’s new care initiatives Matching Hearts and #stayathomehospicehero. They have also been volunteering in other roles to help others during the COVID-19 pandemic.

    Pilgrims’ Acting CEO, Helen Bennett, says: “It has been said many times, but it remains the case, that volunteers are the backbone of our organisation, and now more than ever they are the backbone of our communities.

    “We are currently working on how we can safely restore some of our voluntary activities and will keep our volunteers up-to-date on developments. We want to send a heartfelt ‘thank you’ to all our volunteers during Volunteers’ Week 2020.”

    Volunteers’ Week takes place 1-7 June every year. It’s a chance to celebrate and say thank you for the contribution millions of volunteers make across the UK. As well as helping others, volunteering has been shown to improve volunteers’ wellbeing. The estimated value of volunteers helping charities in the UK is £22.6 billion.

    Please note that many of our volunteer roles are currently paused to help prevent the spread of COVID-19.

    We look forward to welcoming our volunteers back on board once the current situation improves.

    For current information about all Pilgrims Hospices services, including for volunteers, during the COVID-19 (Coronavirus) pandemic, please visit pilgrimshospices.org/covid-19.

    Pilgrims Hospices has been caring for the people of east Kent for more than 37 years, having opened its first hospice in Canterbury in 1982. Its two other locations were opened at Thanet in 1992 and at Ashford in 2001. The charity provides palliative care for adults with a range of incurable illnesses including cancer, heart failure, respiratory conditions and neurological diseases. Care is provided from the three sites, in patients’ homes and via community programmes.




    27th May 2020

    Sandling Park gardens are virtually blooming

    For the last nine years, Sandling Park has opened their spectacular gardens in support of Pilgrims Hospices, raising over £53,000.  This year they have been unable to open their gardens to support us and so with the help of BBC cameraman, Kerry King, they have filmed their first ever virtual open garden.

    We invite you to join our most recent #StayHomeHospiceHero inspiration, Sandling Park Virtual Open Gardens. Since May 2012 this wonderful privately-owned garden has been open to the public attracting as many as 1400 visitors on one day in May each year in aid of Pilgrims Hospices.

    However this is not possible, but now, the green fingered amongst us, can tour the stunning landscape from the comfort of your own garden (or sofa) and enjoy these spectacular gardens.  Click here to take part in this amazing virtual open garden experience.

    Sandling Park is a Grade II listed private garden, set mainly in woodland, which once formed part of the medieval forest of Westenhanger near Hythe in Kent. It is a delightful 25-acre woodland garden with rhododendrons, camellias, magnolias (more than 200 varieties), primulas and wild flowers. The azaleas collection is considered to be one of the finest in the country. It also features 20 national champion trees, all young and rare, but perhaps the most important aspect of the collection is the population of more than 200 wild-sourced trees which still retain their collectors’ numbers.

    We thank the family for allowing this filming to take place, Prunella Scarlett for her kind words for Pilgrims and extensive knowledge of the gardens and BBC Southeast cameraman, Kerry P King for his incredible film.

    Prunella Scarlett - Sandling Park family member
    Prunella Scarlett – Sandling Park family member

    As Prunella says ‘please do give’ if you would like to give a donation for virtually visiting the gardens this year you can do so here: Sandling Park Just Giving page.

    The money you raise will be directly helping Pilgrims nurses, doctors and support staff who are #StillHereStillCaring for some of the most vulnerable people in east Kent during the Covid-19 outbreak.

    The magnificent gardens can be seen on Pilgrims YouTube channel please do visit their stunning gardens in full bloom on our Pilgrims page, it’s a beautiful film and I thoroughly enjoyed seeing the beauty of the gardens and listening to Prunella Scarlett, Sandling Park family member talking so passionately about supporting us.

    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.


    22nd May 2020

    Bernie’s bald move for Pilgrims Hospices raises more than £1,000

    Stay Home Hospice Hero Bernie Brisco, Health Care Assistant at Pilgrims Hospice Ashford, turned 50 on Tuesday 19 May and in doing so raised over £1,000 for the charity.

    To celebrate, Bernie had planned a fabulous party and overnight camp out with many of her friends and hospice colleagues. However due to COVID-19 these plans, as for so many others, had to be cancelled.

    Bernie on her birthday pre-shave

    Bernie still wanted to mark the occasion in a way that she would remember so that she would have something to look back on; so, she decided instead to shave her head. Bernie explained: “As well as being a nurse I am also my brother Matty’s carer and have continued to be so during this lockdown. I have for many years shaved his head and thought, ‘Why not do mine?’ and immediately decided to see if I could raise funds for Pilgrims Hospices at the same time.

    “I love working for Pilgrims, it is such a fantastic charity caring for those who need our specialist support. With people unable to do so many of our normal events to support Pilgrims, this was something I could do.”

    Bernie decided that when she shaved her hair, she wasn’t going to just have a Grade 1 all over, she was going to go totally bald and be proud of it. On Tuesday 19 May, Bernie braved the clippers.

    Katie Brisco, her daughter, said: “My mum has always been a person who puts other people first. She is definitely my role model for life; I am very proud of her. She never expected to raise such a huge sum. She is a superstar.”

    Deirdre Mewse, Community Fundraising Officer, added:

    “A huge thank you to Bernie for going above and beyond to fundraise for Pilgrims, especially during these challenging times. The kindness and generosity she has shown is so appreciated. Alongside our whole Pilgrims team, Bernie is still here, still caring for patients and families across east Kent who are living with incurable illness. We can’t thank our care teams enough for the frontline support they are providing throughout COVID-19.”

    You can still sponsor Bernie via her Facebook fundraising page.

    There are so many ways you can continue to support Pilgrims, even from your homes. Visit the Pilgrims website for some virtual challenges and become a #StayHomeHospiceHero and help to make a difference from your home.

    If you would like to take on a challenge in support of Pilgrims we would love to hear from you. Please contact our fundraising team or join our new virtual Facebook community for ideas.

    We need you more than ever; our local community means everything to us.

    Thank you.

    Each year Pilgrims Hospices give care and comfort to over 2,400 people in east Kent coming to terms with an illness that sadly cannot be cured. The charity supports patients to live life as well as possible until the very end, free from pain and distress. To offer these services the charity must raise £11 million each year from the generous local community.

    20th May 2020

    Golfers go above par for Pilgrims Hospices

    Each year, golfers combine their love for the sport with supporting local hospice care. In 2019/20 nearly £60,000 has been raised in the most recent Captain tenures. The golf community is helping to make a big difference to patients living with a terminal illness and their families in east Kent.

    With the support of club members, Captains choose a charity to raise vital funds for by organising events and setting challenges for everyone to take part in.

    Pilgrims has gratefully received the support of a number of clubs recently including Chestfield GC, Whitstable and Seasalter GC, North Forelands and Ashford GC.

    Canterbury Community Fundraising Manager, Leila Ilkhan said: “The generosity among clubs, members and their families is wonderful to see and evokes a fantastic sense of community spirit among clubhouses.”

    It is not only golf clubs that tee off in aid of charity but also our supporters who raise vital funds on the greens. Richard Foulger, who is a long-term Pilgrims supporter and member of the Tenterden Fundraising Group hosts an annual golf day at Tenterden Golf Club.

    Richard said: “Since 2008 the club has generously supported our annual golf day with many of the club members taking part, helping to raise vital funds. Over the years we’ve welcomed hundreds of supporters who enjoy a brilliant day of hospitality and cheer.”

    Together, golf clubs have helped to continue providing vital palliative care across our three hospice sites and in patients’ homes and the community.

    We really cannot thank you all enough.

    Karen Kenward, Thanet Community Fundraising Manager

    Thanet Community Fundraising Manager, Karen Kenward said: “The continued ongoing support from golf clubs is just incredible. Together, golf clubs have helped to continue providing vital palliative care across our three hospice sites and in patients’ homes and the community. We really cannot thank you all enough.”

    On behalf of everyone at Pilgrims, a very special thank you to the Captains and members at:

    • Ashford Golf Club
    • Canterbury Golf Club
    • Chestfield Golf Club
    • Etchinghill Golf Club
    • Fountain Inn Golf Club
    • Hythe Golf Club
    • Littlestone Golf Club
    • North Foreland Golf Club
    • Rye Golf Club
    • Tenterden Golf Day
    • Whitstable and Seasalter Golf Club

    Please note: All photos featured were taken before the COVID-19 pandemic.

    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.

    12th May 2020

    International Nurses Day: Being a Pilgrims nurse

    Pilgrims Hospices is recognising nurses and key workers on International Nurses Day. To celebrate nurses from across the globe on this day Pilgrims Hospices would like to share a huge thank you to all those who are working to care for people across the world.

    Pilgrims nurses have cared for 1000s of patients, their families and friends in their homes and on the hospice wards for more than 35 years. This year the east Kent community is sharing special messages of thanks with the local charity as lockdown keeps us all social distancing.

    Kate White, Pilgrims Senior Nurse Manager explained: “We’ve received such heart-warming messages from the local community, it is really appreciated by everyone at Pilgrims, and of course it’s lovely to be recognised on our special day.

    “Our nurses and key workers are working tirelessly to ensure patients receive the highest quality care during these difficult times. We understand how important contact is for everyone and we are doing our very best to help patients to feel part of our Pilgrims family whilst their families are caring from a distance.”

    Ryan Mowat and Michelle Bennett, Palliative Specialist Nurses at Pilgrims Hospice Ashford


    Sarah Brown, Pilgrims Specialist Palliative Care Community Team Lead added:

    “We have the privilege to support people and their loved ones at such a key time in their lives. The loss of someone you care for deeply or for whom you share special connections can only be described as the most difficult and heart-rendering time for most people.”

    Angela Padgham

    Palliative Specialist Nurse

    “I’m continuing to do my part and helping to support the palliative care patients in the community who we can’t visit.”







    Charlotte Davies

    Palliative Specialist Nurse Community Team Leader

    “I have wanted to be a palliative nurse since I was 10 years old – that’s a long time! Nurses are born, not made and that is especially true of hospice nurses. To me, hospice nursing is more than just being a face or a name on a staff board. It’s the trust that people put in us to ensure they have the care and support both on the inpatient ward and in the community. It’s the understanding that we are with them every step of the way. Like Maya Angleou said: ‘People will forget your name, they will forget what you said, they will forget what you did. But they will NEVER forget how you made them feel.’ I’m proud to be a hospice nurse!”

    Palliative Specialist Nurses

    Pilgrims Hospice Ashford

    “We are all so proud to be nurses. It is a privilege and an honour to be able to care for someone, especially to provide care and comfort to those at the end of their life. We are proud of our jobs and of the place that we work. There is no profession like it!”




    Alison Wiltshire

    Palliative Specialist Nurse and Community Nursing Team Leader

    “I am very proud of what we do and the opportunities we have to make a real difference to someone at the end of their life and I can’t really imagine myself doing anything else.”



    Kate continued: “Our Pilgrims community extends past the nursing and on to the greater needs of those in our care and their families.  This is why we are encouraging people to think about what needs to be in place in order that their wishes can be met and carried out in a timely and meaningful manner.

    “By engaging with people living with long term conditions at an earlier stage of their illnesses, we believe this will enable people to remain in control and maintain their dignity, focusing on good quality of life, especially when someone’s condition deteriorates. We’re helping our teams to manage through the COVID-19 crisis by ensuring they have sufficient wellbeing resources in place and opportunities to share their concerns for those around them with Pilgrims’ internal support network of carers and advisers.

    My thoughts are; in six months time; we will be able to touch and communicate with our patients without the barrier of a mask. Patients dying in the hospice will have their loved ones with them as they take their last breath. Nurses will be able to focus on what is most important to patients, without fear and restrictions. People with cancers will seek help and support, not being fearful of COVID-19 and ‘putting up’ with symptoms. Nurses will have developed enhanced skills protecting patients, the public, colleagues and themselves, keeping safe.

    Debbie Boots, Advanced Nurse Practitioner

    “Our support teams in catering, counselling, domestic services and so many others are contributing vital assistance for our Pilgrims nurses; we are delighted to be sharing our special day with such special colleagues.”

    Pilgrims Hospices is Still Here, Still Caring. The hard work and dedication do not go unnoticed; now, more than ever, we appreciate you! You can help the Pilgrims nurses to continue with their specialist end-of-life care by making a donation to the Still Here, Still Caring campaign.

    Thank you, your hard work does not go unnoticed.

    Happy International Nurses Day!

    Each year Pilgrims Hospices give care and comfort to over 2,400 people in east Kent who are coming to terms with an illness that sadly cannot be cured.  The charity support patients to live life as well as possible until the very end, free from pain and distress.

    1st May 2020

    Peggy shares lucky Pilgrims lottery win with colleagues

    Peggy Wright, Pilgrims Hospices Physiotherapy Assistant was the lucky winner of a  £2,000 first prize in the weekly Pilgrims Lottery draw early this month. She was keen to share her good fortune with Pilgrims colleagues at the Ashford hospice.

    “I was absolutely delighted when the Lottery team called to tell me I had won. I’ve been a Lottery player for some time and it’s amazing to be a big winner!” said Peggy.

    “It was a great surprise, and to share some of my joy with the team was one of my first thoughts.” She added.

    Peggy provided a selection of treats and goodies for everyone at the Ashford site where she works supporting patients with therapy sessions to improve mobility, quality of life and wellbeing.

    Peggy added: “I would encourage anyone to join Pilgrims Lottery, for just £1 per week; you are supporting the most amazing care within our local community. You will truly be helping to make a difference for people who need end of life care.

    “I’m working from home currently and miss my colleagues very much. I hope my little treats will help them to keep smiling and do what they do best; looking after our patients and each other. Take care and stay safe.”

    You can sign up and play Pilgrims Lottery on the website, for just £1 per week: click here to find out more. It’s a fun way to support vital work, with a chance to win big cash prizes. Every Lottery player is helping to raise enough money for Pilgrims to continue their brilliant care services.

    Each year Pilgrims Hospices give care and comfort to over 2,400 people in east Kent who are coming to terms with an illness that sadly cannot be cured.  The charity support patients to live life as well as possible until the very end, free from pain and distress.

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