Heart of Kent Hospice is launching the first Compassionate Neighbours project in the county in a bid to reduce loneliness and social isolation among people living with a terminal illness.

Compassionate Neighbours is a free, community-led, social movement offering friendship and support for anyone who is lonely, at risk of isolation, and nearing the end of their life through age or illness.

The project works by matching local people in need with a member of their community wishing to offer their companionship. Matching is based on their shared likes, interests and experiences.

Jennie Steer, Compassionate Neighbours Community Engagement Lead explains why the project is so important: “People living with a long-term health condition or terminal illness can often struggle with loneliness and isolation and this negatively affects their physical and emotional wellbeing and can even reduce the time they have left.

“At Heart of Kent Hospice, we are committed to helping people with life-limiting illnesses stay as well and independent as they can for as long as they are able.  Compassionate Neighbours help by regularly visiting their matched community members, offering companionship and emotional support, and enabling them do the things they like doing, while also helping them to stay part of the community and keep in touch with family and friends.”

To launch the project, Heart of Kent Hospice is hosting two events at West Malling Baptist Church, Swan Street, West Malling ME19 6LW on Thursday 30 January 2020.  The first event takes place from 3:00pm - 4:30pm and the other between 5:30pm - 7:00pm.  Both sessions will be visited by Jon Devlin, the Compassionate Neighbours lead at Greenwich & Bexley Hospice where they have been running the project for over a year.  Sarah Pugh, Chief Executive at Heart of Kent Hospice will also be speaking and there will be colleagues and volunteers on hand to answer questions.

After the launch, Heart of Kent Hospice will be rolling out Compassionate Neighbours across Maidstone, Tonbridge and Malling and to all the small towns and villages in its catchment area. 

The project is recruiting volunteers who are keen to help tackle loneliness and support their community to join the network of trained Compassionate Neighbours. Volunteers must be aged 18 or over and able to spare a couple of hours each week. More information will be available at the launch but volunteers will be asked to complete an enhanced DBS check and undergo full training provided by the Hospice before they are matched with a community member.

For people wanting to know more about Compassionate Neighbours, all are welcome to attend the launch events and are asked to RSVP to CN@hokh.co.uk or call 01622 792200 as refreshments will be available.

Compassionate Neighbours was developed by St Joseph's Hospice. Heart of Kent Hospice has been able to launch the project thanks to the generosity of CSIS Charity Fund and Hospice UK, Maidstone Borough Council, The Polebrook Fund, Kent Community Foundation and Golding Vision (part of Golding Homes).


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