Marie Curie Helper volunteers reach 1,000 people
by Christine O’Sullivan Helper Service Manager, Liverpool
Sometimes it’s the little things that matter the most. A cup of tea, a friendly chat and a bit of help to get out of the house can make the world of difference to someone living with a terminal illness. Marie Curie Helper volunteers have been offering this kind of support since 2009 – and we’ve just reached an exciting milestone. Last week, one of our trained, dedicated Helper volunteers made her first visit to our 1,000th client, a widow in her 90s from Liverpool. The introductory visit went well and our volunteer will visit the lady one evening each week to offer a bit of company and someone to talk to. At the age of 90, she’ll have so many interesting stories and memories to share with our volunteer. The visit will also give the lady’s daughter, who is her main carer, a much-needed break. It’s a lovely feeling when you introduce a Helper volunteer and a client for the first time. You just know it’s going to make a real difference to that person and their family. For many people, a visit from one of our volunteers can bring a sense of normality at a difficult time. One lady, who was caring for her terminally ill husband, told me their Helper volunteer “brought a little bit of the world in with her every week”. I know the volunteers benefit too. One of them, Jeanne Kitchen, who has now supported six clients, says: “The clients have enriched my life and each taught me something different. I am so glad that I was part of their lives. I really believe the Helpers gain as much from the experiences as the clients.” We currently offer the Helper service in nine different parts of the UK. It has grown from a fledgling pilot in Somerset in 2009 to a core service offered by Marie Curie, thanks to the hard work of staff and volunteers. We’re just about to begin training a new cohort of volunteers for our new service in North London and are launching two more services in Lothian and Tyne and Wear soon. Thanks to ITV’s Text Santa Appeal 2014, which raised £1.03 million for us, we’ll be launching the service in another six locations during 2015/16. This will enable us to reach many more people and we’re very grateful to ITV and to everyone who donated to the appeal for this amazing gift. At Marie Curie, we want to help more people living with any terminal illness and their families. The expansion of the Helper service has a big part to play in achieving this. As we celebrate this milestone, we’re looking forward to our unique service growing even more – and helping the next 1,000 people.