Caroline’s love for volunteering is only growing stronger

Just over five years ago, Caroline Faulkner had to take some time off work because she was ill, she was referred to a physiotherapist for her problems and this is how she came to know more about St Mary’s Hospice. 

Like many other people, Caroline just thought the hospice was a place people came to die. But, like a lot of people in the community, she quickly had her eyes opened to the number of services we offer. 

At the time, Caroline became involved with the Complementary Therapies service. Here at the hospice, we recognise that living with an illness can be hard and there are different ways people find to manage their illness. Our complementary therapy team can offer a range of one to one and group therapy sessions for both patients and carers. 

After attending the sessions, Caroline decided she wanted to give back to the hospice and volunteer. She said: “Just over five years ago I took ill and was referred to a physiotherapist who informed me of the services you offer. 

“I had some complementary therapies and got involved with the chair-based exercise class. I was given great support for a few years and I found it really valuable. 

“This is when I decided I had a lot of skills to offer the hospice.”  

Caroline’s previous work helping young children who weren’t able to attend school because of illnesses meant that she was able to lend a helping hand. Initially, wanting to give back to the hospice, Caroline thought she’d be best on reception because as she says, “I’m good at talking.” But she quickly realised that she had a lot more to give and wanted to get hands on and help out. 

Through being helped by the hospice team and also donating her time to give back, Caroline quickly got to know more about St Mary’s Hospice and everything we have to offer. 

It’s a common misconception that St Mary’s is a place people come to die and we only help those with life-limiting illnesses and their families, however, we offer a plethora of different services. 

Caroline continued: “I only thought, like a lot of people, that the hospice was just for in-patients and the family support for that. I was shocked to learn more about the hospice and everything you offer.” 

One day, Caroline got a phone call telling her the hospice ‘needed her skills’ and this is when she went on to receive training and for the past few years has been helping with the bereavement support team. Primarily, Caroline is based in the St Mary’s Hospice Community Hub in Barrow. 

From dementia cafes to the St Mary’s Hospice choir, the community hub is a hive of activity. Aptly named Compassionate Communities, it is an international approach focused on encouraging and supporting communities in developing ease around discussions of death, dying, and grief.  

The approach involves a shift away from formal services being ‘provided for’ people to communities being empowered to support themselves alongside and in partnership with established services such as those provided by St Mary’s Hospice. 

Caroline has loved her time volunteering for the hospice. She said: “I have absolutely loved it. I was really nervous about it at first because it’s difficult to talk to someone about grief. But I’ve realised it’s not just talking about grief, it’s everything else going on in their lives because this has an impact too. 

“I’ve absolutely loved it and it’s lovely to be able to make a difference.” 

Caroline is now part of the St Mary’s Hospice family and says she feels “very valued.” She added: “It gives you a sense of I’ve done something for someone that’s useful to their life. It’s a sense of knowing you’ve made a difference to someone’s life. 

“The local community and people out there don’t know that the community hub exists and don’t realise it’s part of the hospice. But I’d encourage anyone to ring up or go to it because they’re working really hard.” 

Here at St Mary’s, we rely on the kindness of the community to keep us going. Without the generosity of people around us, we’d not be able to provide the services we can. If you think you’d be able to donate some of your time to St Mary’s don’t hesitate to get in touch.