Jo and Jim’s journey supporting local hospice care

Reverend Jo Richards and husband Jim from Canterbury are keen supporters of Pilgrims Hospices; over the years, they have raised more than £1,600 for local hospice care.

As a priest and rector in the area, Jo often supports those approaching the end of life, and in 2012 she did her chaplaincy placement at Pilgrims.

The couple have also experienced first-hand Pilgrims’ holistic, compassionate services through loved ones cared for by the charity.

Jo and Jim at the Pilgrims Way Challenge 2021

In 2008, the couple’s close friend and their daughter Hannah’s godmother, Dawn Smith, died in the Canterbury hospice. Three years later, Jo’s grandmother, Mary Pocock, died in the Margate hospice.

Jo said: “I hold Pilgrims close to my heart, both personally and professionally. When Dawn died, that was the first time I had experienced the love, care and attention Pilgrims’ staff give to their patients. It just seemed different to anything I’d witnessed before. Then when my grandmother died, again the same level of care and compassion was offered to her and our family. One abiding memory is that she died just after her 95th birthday; on that occasion, her bed was wheeled into a room where the whole family gathered around her and we celebrated with food and a cake – a memory to cherish forever.

“More recently, as the local priest, I have been called to offer bedside prayers and last rites to those who are close to the end; again, nothing is ever too much trouble for the Pilgrims team. Likewise, through members of our congregation I have seen first-hand what the Hospice at Home service means to those who wish to die at home.

“The whole hospice movement, from its inauguration in 1967 at St Christopher’s Hospice in London by Dame Cicely Saunders, resonates with me. I really believe in its philosophy, enabling someone to have a ‘good death’ along with the love, support and care given to the family.”

Jim added: “Pilgrims is an important part of our east Kent community, offering a connection to people from all walks of life when they need it the most. I’m keen to support a local charity, and I admire the work of the hospice movement in providing the best care and experience for those with terminal illnesses, and the support it provides to their families and friends.”

In 2019, Jo and Jim completed the Pilgrims Way Challenge, choosing the 35km route from Canterbury to Dover. They took part again in 2021, this time walking the longest distance – 55km from Wye to Dover. Jim will undertake the Cycle Challenge for a second time on Sunday 22 August 2021. During lockdowns, the couple completed the Walk the Underground virtual hike and Jim is currently doing the UK End to End Virtual Cycle.

Jo continued: “My passion is walking, and to get fit for the 55km was a real challenge; the 35km route was manageable, so we wanted to push ourselves to go further. It was a personal challenge and to do it for the hospices, to raise awareness and support them, was the very least we could do. We’ve had support from family, friends and the congregations in Canterbury of the three churches I’m responsible for: St Dunstan’s, St Mildred’s and St Peter’s. The event organisation was incredible all the way through – the welcome from volunteers was lovely and the food along the way was excellent. We very much want to do it again next year.

“Pilgrims offer an invaluable service. It is a resource available to us all, and therefore should be funded by us all. It’s the least we can do to help support it financially.”

Main image taken by Andrew Hastings.

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.