Volunteers Week 2023: Mary and Nicola – Compassionate Neighbours

Read Nicola’s story, our oldest Compassionate Neighbour at 93 years old.

Compassionate Neighbours

Compassionate Neighbours supports people in Hackney and Tower Hamlets 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.

Mary (name changed for anonymity) was referred to Compassionate Neighbours in the summer of 2022. She is 89 years of age and lives alone in Bethnal Green. Mary is Irish and worked at St Joseph’s Hospice for many years and it has a very special place in her heart. Now retired, she is feeling isolated from her community due to ill health and the loss of family members. Mary was referred to us by her GP.

Compassionate Neighbours met with Mary and heard how she had has a lot of loss in her life. Starting from a young age, Mary’s mother passed away when she was only a young girl. More recently, Mary’s husband died. Her life, as she described it, was very difficult for lots of reasons and she now finds herself living alone and in need of some social support.

Meet Nicola

Nicola trained as a Compassionate Neighbour in March 2023 and at the great age of 93 she is our oldest Compassionate Neighbour. She trained in a group of 22, the largest group of Compassionate Neighbours trainees we have had so far.

Nicola had previously volunteered at a hospice in West London for the past 20 years and when this was no longer possible, she looked for other opportunities. She decided to give Compassionate Neighbours her time and 20 years of volunteering experience.

Nicola loves and appreciates music and enjoys singing in a choir. She became a Compassionate Neighbour because she has had a lot of life experience and wanted to share this with others, and give her time to those who need social support.

An instant connection

Nicola was introduced to Mary recently, and there was an instant sense of connection. Nicola is a very good listener and it was obvious from the start that these two people felt at ease with each other.

Despite Mary having family members in her life regularly, she still felt extremely isolated. We often see situations where despite people seeming to have plenty of family and friends around, there can still be a sense of isolation. This may be because what the community member wants to share/talk about is hard to raise with family and loved ones. Compassionate Neighbours offer and provide the chance to discuss matters that are too difficult to raise with their family or friends.

Nicola travels from West London to Bethnal Green once a week to visit Mary. She travels on the underground and the distance is not a problem for her. Without people like Nicola, giving their time and life experience, Compassionate Neighbours would not be able to support so many isolated people living towards the end of life.

For more information on how you can get involved in training as a Compassionate Neighbour, please see here