Tony’s story: “I was a lost soul until I became a Pilgrims volunteer”

Regular Pilgrims Hospices volunteer, Tony Lowden from Cliftonville, has a special connection with the charity; his long-term partner, Joanne, was cared for at the Thanet hospice after she was diagnosed with a brain tumour in December 2014. Here, Tony shares how becoming a volunteer has helped him.


Joanne was only 31-years-old when she passed away in December 2015. She had spent time in the hospice twice during that year, in order to manage her symptoms. She passed away at our home, where we were supported by the Pilgrims community team.

I cared for Joanne 24 hours a day. I was a lost soul when she passed away.

I took up the offer of some support from Geoff, the counsellor at the hospice. He suggested that when I was ready, perhaps I could spend some time volunteering; it may be good therapy for me.

The suggestion was, ‘Come along on a Wednesday morning, pot a plant and have some tea and cake’. The rest is history!

Recently, the hospice tomatoes and basil produced a perfect meal for a patient who was only able to digest fluids. It was very tasty with absolutely no carbon footprint, and really enjoyed by the patients. That was so rewarding for all of us.

Tony

After starting as a volunteer just one morning a week, I’m now a regular feature around the hospice, sometimes gardening or doing maintenance with the team and even unblocking the odd drain when needed.

I love my role as a volunteer team member. Pilgrims is just like a little community of its own; the staff are wonderful and we all care for each other and do anything we can to support the care of Pilgrims’ patients.

I have built a wonderful network of friends across the organisation. I play Pilgrims Hospices Lottery, offer support as a marshal at fundraising events and get involved with in memory events such as Trees of Love and Sunflower Memories.

Although I’m not a gardener, I’ve become quite skilled now. I find making the garden troughs and raised beds particularly rewarding. Michael from the catering team has been busy planting them and growing vegetables in the hospice gardens, which in turn are used within the kitchen for patient meals. Recently, the hospice tomatoes and basil produced a perfect meal for a patient who was only able to digest fluids. It was very tasty with absolutely no carbon footprint, and really enjoyed by the patients. That was so rewarding for all of us.

The care offered to Joanne was amazing; if she woke and wanted an all-day breakfast at 4am, it would be done – nothing was ever too much trouble from this amazing team.

If you’d like to volunteer for Pilgrims, visit pilgrimshospices.org/volunteer to check out our latest volunteer opportunities.

We’re currently offering exciting volunteering opportunities in Canterbury and the surrounding areas as part of our new Coach House Shed project:

Find out more at pilgrimshospices.org/sheds.


If you or someone you know is coping with a life limiting illness and you think you may benefit from Pilgrims free services, talk to your GP or Healthcare Professional about your options or click here to read about our Wellbeing and Social Programme.