24th April 2023

    Pilgrims Hospices doctors help patients to live well in every moment

    At Pilgrims Hospices, specialist palliative care doctors and consultants play a vital role in supporting patients and their families. They focus on managing and improving the physical symptoms that accompany a variety of life-limiting illnesses, with the broader aim of helping people to live well – in both mind and body – in the time that they have left.

    Ahsan Ashfaq and Tarek Boumrah, trainee doctors who both volunteered at Pilgrims when they were at school and spent time in the hospices during their medical training, share their experiences of hospice care in east Kent.

    What inspired you to volunteer and do your training at Pilgrims Hospices?

    Ahsan: When I was at sixth form, I was looking for opportunities to gain experience in healthcare to better inform my career choice. We’d raised money for Pilgrims when I was at school, so I was familiar with the charity. Some friends in older years had volunteered and they only had good things to say. I spent time on weekends and some afternoons volunteering on reception at Pilgrims Hospice Thanet, where I learned a great deal. 

    Naturally, I was absolutely delighted when the opportunity presented itself to work at Pilgrims as a doctor. It felt like a ‘full-circle’ moment. It has been one of the greatest honours of my career so far to have served the local community with Pilgrims.

    Tarek: I was interested in healthcare whilst studying for my A-Levels and wanted to do something that would help others. I heard about Pilgrims through a friend, and felt that the care they provided was so unique that I wanted to learn more.

    It has been one of the greatest honours of my career so far to have served the local community with Pilgrims.


    What did your roles involve and what did you learn?

    Ahsan: As a volunteer, I worked on the reception desk. I would direct visitors to the appropriate areas and help make teas and coffees for them. At the time, the reception volunteers used to do a tea/coffee trolley round for the patients and also deliver food from the kitchen where necessary. 

    As a doctor, I worked as a senior house officer at Pilgrims Hospice Thanet. I worked in conjunction with other members of the multi-disciplinary team to provide care for patients on our inpatient unit. My day-to-day role included meetings about patients, board rounds, ward rounds and ensuring that our patients were well looked after. There was also a comprehensive teaching programme, from which I learned a great deal and was also able to contribute to. I visited people in their homes and the hospital to help plan their care. As such, I had the opportunity to learn about palliative medicine and develop my medical practice in this specialty. Through working at Pilgrims, I have learned to always put compassion at the heart of my approach to patients.

    In both roles, I was lucky to work together with a wide range of professionals, all of whom I consider heroes without capes.

    Tarek: As a volunteer, I welcomed visitors in reception and made teas and coffees for them. I’d often pass the ward and speak to patients and families, too. I’d never seen a dying person before, so it was a really eye-opening experience.

    As a doctor, I supported patients and helped to improve their quality of life, ensuring they had a comfortable and dignified death. The main thing I’ve learned is to listen; patients and their families often feel they haven’t been listened to, and this leads to a relationship breakdown between them and healthcare professionals. Often, simply listening can make a huge difference to a patient, even if I’m not able to solve their medical issue.

    Decisions about resuscitation and preferred place of care and death are often overlooked, which doesn’t give patients and loved ones the time they need to process what is happening. My time at Pilgrims helped me develop my communication skills, and also recognise the importance of planning for the future with patients.

    In today’s society, people don’t often see the dying process, so it can be frightening for patients and families who have no idea what to expect. Pilgrims helps to normalise this journey that we will all take.


    Why is hospice care important?

    Ahsan: Hospice care provides an opportunity for people with terminal illnesses to live with dignity despite their disease. From symptom control to psychological support and spiritual care, Pilgrims provides a vital service for patients and their families when they are at their most vulnerable. It is so important to be able to provide this service to the local community. 

    Tarek: Hospices prioritise patients’ dignity and wishes, caring for them in a truly holistic way that supports all of their needs: medical, emotional, social, psychological and spiritual. This care also extends to their loved ones, continuing into bereavement after a patient has died.

    Why do we need to talk about death and dying and how does Pilgrims help people to do this?

    Ahsan: Death and dying can be a scary thought for many people. There can be a lot of fears around symptoms, social issues and the concept of going through the dying process itself. It’s important to talk about these things so that we can be clear about what patients’ wishes are and provide patient-centred care. 

    Pilgrims helps people talk about dying in various ways; patients are able to speak to the medical and nursing team about their fears and wishes, and there are also activities run by the Wellbeing team for patients and their carers. Hospice counsellors and the spiritual care team can speak to both patients and their families so that they are able to get the support they need.

    Tarek: In today’s society, people don’t often see the dying process, so it can be frightening for patients and families who have no idea what to expect. Pilgrims helps to normalise this journey that we will all take. Talking about death and dying encourages people to focus on what’s most important to them.

    If you’re interested in a career at Pilgrims, please check out our current vacancies at www.pilgrimshospices.org/jobs, which are updated regularly.

    Death Cafes provide a safe space to discuss death and dying without objectives or an agenda.

    We’re hosting our next Death Cafe event on Wednesday 10 May 2023 at the Ann Robertson Centre in Canterbury, during Dying Matters Awareness Week. This is a free event and all are welcome; places are limited, so please call or email if you’d like to come along:

    Each year, Pilgrims Hospices provide care and comfort to thousands of 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 end of life, free from pain and distress.

    21st April 2023

    Anthony Giles supports creative art event for Pilgrims Hospices

    Local artist Anthony Giles, has generously offered his studio for Pilgrims to hold the 100 Pieces of Art charity auction, taking place on 1 July 2023. Anthony lives and works in Margate, surrounded by Turner’s best skies in the whole of Europe.

    Pilgrims are inviting budding artists of all ages and abilities, to submit their paintings, ceramic or sculpture art to create 100 pieces of art to be sold at auction to help support Pilgrims Hospices’ end-of-life care.

    Karen Kenward, Pilgrims Hospices Community Fundraising Manager said:

    “Anthony has been involved with art events for Pilgrims Hospices over the years, and helped choose art for previous events. When he approached me last year, I was delighted; it’s a lovely studio, and I’m very excited to be holding a Pilgrims art event in such a prestigious venue. Our charity constantly looks for innovative and interesting ways to engage with the local community and our supporters. I’m really hoping to capture the imagination of lots of local artists, and budding artists, to help us achieve our 100 pieces for the auction.”

    Anyone can submit an artwork, painting, drawing, ceramic or sculpture art; if you have a creative eye, we would love to see your work!

    The auction will be held at Anthony Giles Studio, 3 Lombard Street, Margate.

    The deadline for submissions is Friday 5 May 2023.

    Please note: Paintings and drawings must be between postcard size 6”x 4” and 26”x 24”, framed or unframed.

    Viewing will take place between Tuesday 27 June and Friday 30 June, 10am – 4pm and Saturday 1 July, 10am – 12pm.

    The auction will begin at 1pm on Saturday 1 July, with pre-event drinks and nibbles from 10am – 12pm.

    Karen added: “Anyone can come along, so please do support this very special event; you can also make a bid prior to the auction, or on the day in person, or by telephone. This is a great opportunity to buy a beautiful piece of art, knowing that all profits from the art will help to support Pilgrims services.”

    For more information, or if you’re interested in submitting a piece of art, contact Karen Kenward by telephone on 01843 233 934 or email karen.kenward@pilgrimshospices.org.

    Auction catalogues will be available nearer the time of the event, costing £5 from Pilgrims Hospice Thanet and the Anthony Giles Studio, Margate.

    Each year, Pilgrims supports hundreds of local people coping with a life-limiting illness and their families. The charity offers a range of services, from end-of-life care given on its wards, to its Wellbeing Programme supporting people after they are diagnosed to live well and stay independent.

    12th April 2023

    The Blackbird Project continues to soar at Pilgrims Hospices

    The Blackbird Project helps people hear their loved ones’ voices – even when they’re no longer here.

    Sheena and Nick Jackaman lost their son Ben in 2017, when he was only 34 years old. He was cared for at Pilgrims Hospice Canterbury. As with many bereaved families, they realised how much they missed the sound of Ben’s voice of which they had no recent recordings.

    Nick and Sheena Jackaman

    They, his sister Anna, family and their friends raised funds in his memory, in order to create a legacy project that would allow grieving families to listen to the voice of their loved one, and feel comforted at any time.

    From this idea, the Blackbird Project was born and co-founded with Pilgrims Hospices. The project name came from the family’s love of The Beatles track ‘Blackbird’ which Ben played for them on his guitar before he was diagnosed with cancer.

    From Spring 2019, Blackbird facilitators at the hospice have been trained to work with patients to record messages, poems, thoughts, recipes, details of their favourite music or anything that the patient would like to say.

    After recording, the memory messages are downloaded onto a little blackbird-shaped USB stick, and given to the person who the patient has nominated.

    Sheena and Nick continue to support Pilgrims, and more recently have donated beautiful Blackbird paintings to our three hospices, and printed cards that are for sale to raise important funds for patient care and services.

    They said: “Our friend Caroline Brett is a talented artist who lives in Spain. She painted the wonderful blackbirds for us as a surprise gift. Greetings cards have also been printed from the original paintings, to sell and raise funds for The Blackbird Project. We are delighted to have her support with the beautifully detailed prints; we still feel surrounded by Ben’s love. Ben was highly creative, working in graphic design, and had a gift for music. I’m sure he would be very proud of our blackbird choice, and our way of recognising the compassion and care provided by Pilgrims Hospices who took us all under their wings at the most difficult of times. We will continue to raise funds in Ben’s memory, especially to support people who are facing similar challenges in their bereavement.”

    In folklore, the blackbird is the first bird to sing in the dawn chorus, and the last bird singing as night falls. Its call is distinctive and is instantly recognisable, making it a very appropriate name for the project.

    Pilgrims Hospices cares for thousands of people each year, free of charge, during the most challenging time in their lives. They offer care and support in people’s own homes, in the community and in their inpatient units as well as running a 24-hour advice line.

    11th April 2023

    UNFRAMED mural festival and art trail arrives in Ashford

    Follow the Ashford UNFRAMED 2023 art trail this April half term, and be amazed by the murals created by national and local artists, who have transformed blank walls in Ashford town centre, into a sea of colour and creativity.

    Kate Duddell from Pilgrims’ fundraising team with Chris Dixon from Ashford Borough Council / Mural art by Will Redgrove on Pilgrims’ Ashford General shop

    Sue Sharp with artist Will Redgrove

    At the UNFRAMED launch, Sue Sharp, Pilgrims Hospices Director of Income Generation and Marketing, met mural artist Will Redgrove, painter of Pilgrims Hospices shop on Castle Street with his interpretation of the work of Pilgrims. The masterpiece depicts three blue tits representing the three Pilgrims Hospices; a ribbon in flight within a field of bluebells, forget-me-nots and sunflowers. A meaningful and peaceful representation of everlasting love, memory and care, which, is at the heart of Pilgrims Hospices’ vision.

    Visitors to the festival can download a map, scan a QR code at each site, or pick up a physical map from Coachworks, Low Key Tap Room, Picturehouse or Made in Ashford and wander around the town centre immersing themselves in the street art and learning more about each piece.

    Mural lovers can also join a free, artist-led, family friendly guided tour; click here for more details and to book.

    The mural festival is running from Saturday 1 April to Sunday 16 April 2023, with arts workshops, street dance and film screenings available to all visitors.

    Keep up with all the latest updates as they happen and watch the progress of the artwork being created by following @ashfordunframed on Instagram.

    You can find more information and event updates on the Love Ashford website.

    Pilgrims Hospices care for thousands of local people each year, free of charge, during the most challenging time in their lives. They offer care and support in people’s own homes, in the community and in their inpatient units as well as running a 24-hour advice line.

    5th April 2023

    Broadstairs Beavers get creative with Pilgrims Hospices

    The generous 11th Broadstairs Beavers, visited Pilgrims Hospice Thanet with Tracey Garnier, to present their donation of £200. The Beavers had been saving money each week, to help support people who need important Pilgrims’ care.

    They were interested to find out more about activities that take place in the Therapy Centre, and enjoyed a craft session during their visit.

    Jane Stanley, Wellbeing Practitioner said:

    It was such a great evening! We had prepared packs of 3D desktop beavers to make, and coiling dreamcatcher snakes to decorate. After a brief overview of some of the Wellbeing groups here at Pilgrims, the Beavers beaveredon with the crafts. They enjoyed the cheque handover and having their photograph taken. We also had a new Beaver invested into the group, and they all marched out happily holding their beavers and snakes.

    They loved hearing about the groups we run for patients, and seeing the warm safe space of our Therapy Centre, while enjoying the cutting and sticking crafts. They thought about a message to put in their desktop beaver; one wrote a message for someone who had been unkind to them at school, and was going to give the beaver to them as a gift.

    The evening showed the kindness of this community group, donating a fantastic sum to the good work done at Pilgrims.”

    Tracey Garnier, Unit Clerk continued:

    I am Tracey (Tic Tac) my Beaver name, and I work as the Unit Clerk in Pilgrims Hospice Thanet. I joined the hospice team a year ago, after a career change, having previously worked in education for 26 years as a learning support assistant. My other assistant leader also works at the hospice – Caroline (Tu Tu) is part of the fundraising team, and joined our group 5 years ago, after coming on a Beavers District Hike which was donating money to Pilgrims Hospices.

    Each week, we encourage the Beavers to bring in small change which is collected and then donated to a charity. Over the COVID period, we were not allowed to meet so this all stopped.

    Tracey added: I approached Billy Williams, Pilgrims Wellbeing Lead, to see if it would be possible for the Beavers to visit the therapy area, and undertake an art activity. I wanted the Beavers to see how their donation would help to support local people who need care; helping them to understand having seen the physical place.

    Jane has been amazing and came up with some ideas and beavered away to make sure everything was ready for the evening. We asked the Beavers some general questions, then asked Jane to tell us what it is that happens in that area. They were very interested and surprised by the variety of things. We then started the art activity which they really enjoyed.

    I hope to incorporate some other activities in our coming sessions, and hope to visit the hospice again. Watch this space.”

    Caroline Dixon, from Pilgrims said:  We had a fabulous time with our Broadstairs Beavers, they were really keen to learn, and by visiting the hospice, its given them an opportunity to find out first-hand about the special care we offer here.”

    Please visit pilgrimshospices.org/fundraising if you would like to run an event and raise awareness for local hospice care.

    Each year, Pilgrims Hospices give care and comfort to over 2,500 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.

    4th April 2023

    Always Caring: Daphne’s story

    As a member of Pilgrims Hospices Always Caring, Daphne Smith supports the charity with a monthly donation, to give back for the care and support her and her husband, Ron, received.

    My late husband Ron and I were both in the Civil Service working for the prison department. Ron was an electrician before he joined the Service, so went in as a Trades Officer and worked his way up through the ranks. He always worked and played hard and I was immensely proud of him. He was 89 when he died and we had been married for 68 years.

    Whilst Ron was receiving immunotherapy at the Viking centre, he also had help from Pilgrims Hospices, who provided six sessions, once a week with the Energise group at the Thanet hospice. They got him back into exercising, and at the end of six weeks he was considered fit enough to restart at the local gym, which he thoroughly enjoyed. When the pandemic stopped him from attending the gym, he bought an exercise bike from the Pilgrims warehouse in Margate and exercised daily in our conservatory.

    The help and understanding we both received at that frightening and upsetting time was so very much appreciated, and is why I continue to support Pilgrims Hospices through Always Caring.


    During his two year course of treatment, I was helped by attending the Carer Wellbeing Days. When I first arrived there I was apprehensive, but was soon put at ease by the kind and understanding staff. I could exchange views and feelings in a safe environment, spending time with others who were going through the same experiences. I found the Carer Wellbeing Days very helpful, as they gave me the time to relax away from my responsibilities as a carer. I also attended programmes run by the Palliative Specialist Nurses, where they gave me information on finance, common symptoms, and nutrition.

    None of us know when we might need hospice care, but with your support we can continue to be here for local people when they need us most.

    By giving regularly to Pilgrims Hospices you can help us be here, Always Caring for our patients and their families.

    Join Pilgrims Hospices Always Caring support club today.

    Each year, Pilgrims Hospices give care and comfort to thousands of 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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