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Ernie hails Compassionate Neighbours

Centurion labels project as ‘lifeline’

A Stevenage resident who recently celebrated his 100th birthday has hailed our Compassionate Neighbours project as a lifeline for he and his wife during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Ernie and his wife of 71 years, Jean, have limited movement at home and were left isolated by the impact of coronavirus. However both have benefitted from regular contact from their Compassionate Neighbour, Tricia May, as part of the project which matches local people volunteering their time to provide social and emotional support to hundreds of people in our community.

Ernie who, amongst many jobs and hobbies during a fascinating career, served as a medic for fire crews during the Blitz in London, said:

“A good friend introduced us to Compassionate Neighbours and I have to admit I was a little doubtful that such a project, however well intentioned, could work. Neither of us move around very much and we are limited in what we do at home, although we do enjoy reading, watching TV and I tinker about with the keyboard, ukulele and even harmonica.

“However the project has been brilliant for us. Tricia is a lovely, charming, kind and thoughtful lady. She gives her time not only to visit us when allowed, but to talk via email every day too.

“Compassionate Neighbours has been a lifeline for Jean and I and has helped us in more ways than I can say.”

Tricia, from Knebworth, was herself unsure about the project at first having been introduced through a social worker friend. However having signed up, received full training and spent time getting to know Ernie and Jean, was full of praise.

“I was slightly apprehensive at first as I was aware that Ernie and Jean had sadly lost a daughter two years ago, but we all get along so brilliantly. Being a Compassionate Neighbour is a fantastic job and I feel like I’m making a real difference, especially in these Covid-19 times.

“I know that I could never replace their daughter in the same way that they could never replace my mum, who sadly has dementia. But together we fill a small gap in each other’s lives and it’s just wonderful.”

“Prior to the pandemic I would visit once a week and my partner even built them a deck to sit on outside their conservatory, as the steps from the house were too steep for them to get down to the garden. I now email them everyday and Ernie also speaks to his son John, in Canada every night too.

“I’m desperate to get back to see them, when it’s possible, as whenever I visit I leave with a fantastic smile on my face. Anyone thinking of becoming a Compassionate Neighbour should just do it, as it’s very rewarding.”

With Ernie’s son John prevented from flying back from Canada for his dad’s 100th birthday celebrations due to travel restrictions, Tricia went the extra mile and ensured it was a day to remember. After picking up the birthday cake, she encouraged all the neighbours to gather socially distant outside their house, where they all sang Happy Birthday to a delighted Ernie, who said it was totally unexpected and very gratifying. Moments later, the postman arrived with his birthday letter from the Queen.

Can you spare one hour a week to make a real difference in someone’s life as a Compassionate Neighbour? To find out more, or request an application form, please contact cn@ghhospicecare.org.uk or call 01462 679540 (option 8).

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