Remo and Kito are two close friends who met whilst volunteering at St Joseph’s Hospice. Their beautiful friendship story illustrates that volunteering not only makes a big difference in the local community but also is a great way to meet new people and make lifelong friends.
Kito became one of our Compassionate Neighbours in 2015. Although he had lived in Hackney since 90’ and passed the hospice every day, he never dared to come in: “I though the hospice was a place where people came to die”. However, one day Kito attended the carers conferences held at the hospice and his perception about the place changed.
At the conference, Kito was given a Compassionate Neighbours leaflet. Compassionate Neighbours support people who are living with chronic life-limiting illness and those that are feeling isolated from their local community. They provide emotional and social support and develop natural, mutual friendships.
The project intrigued Kito but he was unsure whether the Compassionate Neighbours role was for him. Kito spoke with the project manager, who reassured Kito that if he didn’t enjoy the role, he could quit whenever he wanted. Thus, Kito decided to give it a go and became a compassionate neighbour. After he completed his training, Kito was matched with the hospice patient Joseph and has been regularly visiting him for the last 7 years.
Remo first joined the hospice in 2017. He attended a volunteer recruitment fair in his local library and got interested in a volunteer escort role. Our volunteer escorts support patients to attend activities held at the hospice.
Not long after he started his escort role, Remo went to pick up one of the Day Hospice patients. Coincidently, the patient that Remo was assigned to pick up was Joseph. When Remo rang Joseph’s bell, Kito opened the door. Remo introduced himself and explained that he was a St Joseph’s volunteer. Kito told Remo that he also volunteered for St Joseph’s hospice. Both men agree that indeed this first meeting was where their friendship started.
At first Remo and Kito would meet whilst on volunteering duty, supporting Joseph. Soon both men realised that they enjoyed each other’s company and became friends. Kito says: “Meeting Remo through the hospice helped us to bond quickly. I think it is easier to trust other volunteers. You already share something in common.”
Now Remo and Kito can often be seen together doing various activities, such as going for a walk in Haggerston park, playing badminton, going to theatre or joining Hackney Dudes meet ups. Remo, a keen gardener, has shared his knowledge and plants with Kito, who is proud of not having killed any of the plants yet. Kito, an excellent cook, from time to time invites Remo for a feast. Remo swears Kito makes the best sushi in town.
Recently, Kito got ill and Remo was there to support him in any way Kito needed: “I know I can trust Remo, I know I can always ask for some help”. Kito laughs that during that time Remo was his compassionate neighbour, helping him to get out of the house to go for short walks or go to his hospital appointments.
Both men continue to support Joseph. Unfortunately, Joseph’s health has deteriorated significantly and he is no longer able to attend the hospice. Remo has become a compassionate neighbour and enjoys visiting Joseph together with Kito. : “It is fantastic to meet people by chance and do volunteering together”.
Remo finds volunteering very satisfying: “It brings so much joy to support someone. As you enter [patient’s homes] you can see a big smile on the face. It makes me so happy, it is very satisfying. It is a meaningful way to spend time. Also, you always meet wonderful people here, at the hospice.”
Remo and Kito invite those who would like to volunteer but hesitate to come and talk about their experience. Kito says: “Come and talk to us about our experience. At the beginning I wasn’t sure whether volunteering was for me. I thought I’d try for a week. Now, seven years on, I am still here. If I weren’t a volunteer I wouldn’t have met Remo.”