This week I was invited to spend time with a group of people doing one of the most fundamentally selfless, generous of jobs - running a hospice for those in our society who suffer from life-limiting conditions. Bedford Daycare Hospice provides support, company and activity for seriously ill people from Monday to Friday, as well as raising awareness and fundraising on behalf of those who need support in their time of need. I am lucky enough to know one of the fantastic folk that work there.
My friend contacted me, asking if I would like to visit the hospice and take a look at some of the work they do, and I jumped at the chance. As I have said in previous posts, chances seem few and far between these days to celebrate the positives in life, it seems silly to pass up the opportunity to do so. So keen was I, we in fact arranged 2 visits. The first took place before the hospice opened one morning last week. I took my mum along with me, a further opportunity to both spend time with a friend not seen for a while. On arrival, Caroline showed us around the main building.
I imagine that, when the word 'hospice' arises, most people picture a clinical, cold, impersonal place, full of uniformed staff and blank, spaces lacking personalitiy. This could not be further from the truth when it comes to Bedford Daycare Hospice. The staff wear their own clothes, to make their clients feel more at ease around them. The main lounge is full of comfy armchairs for visitors to relax in. Beds are available in other rooms, if quieter, more relaxed times are needed. It feels warm, bright, and, importantly, it feels comfortably familiar. So good are they, that they were awarded the Queen's Award for Voluntary Services 2013.
The staff could not be lovelier. These guys are fantastic. Enthusiastic, caring and generally just rather brilliant, they are a wonderful bunch. The time they dedicate to making every experience here pleasant is only surpassed by the willingness of all involved to dedicate free time outside of work to fundraising money to keep the hospice ticking along.
Once we had completed our look around the main building, Caroline took us into one of the hospice's ongoing projects, the Butterfly Boutique. A quaint addition to the grounds of the hospice, the Butterfly Boutique is an onsite shop, selling all manner of treasures kindly donated by the public. Needless to say that, with myself and my mum in attendance, it was slightly emptier after our visit! It really is gorgeous, full of goodies, and in such a beautiful setting. I urge you to visit and take a look. Not only will you enjoy your time there, but you will be helping fund an excellent, necessary cause. And you can always donate your own items if you are feeling particularly generous!
Once we had the full tour and I had taken plenty of pictures, it was arranged that I would come back and attend the pamper evening organised to raise funds for the hospice. I was lucky enough to nab a facial and back massage spot on the evening, no mean feat considering how many people attended! All the treatments given were as a result of time donated by local practitioners, and what a lovely bunch they were. My first treatment was provided by the wonderful Caron who gave me the most relaxing facial. During the session we talked, and I asked what prompted her to join in the festivities. Her response was touching, being that she wanted to assist in making the lives of those in difficult situations easier to handle. She also visits the hospice regularly to provide treatments for visitors, she's a genuinely terrific individual.
I then had a session with the lovely Jennifer from the Healing Shed for a back massage. This was her first time volunteering at the hospice. She wants to contribute more of her time to the community, and offering help to those who need it. She's fantastic.
On the evening, a raffle was taking place, products were available for purchase, and socialising was taking place. It was a wonderful atmosphere, with everyone enjoying their treatments and getting to know those who had also come along. Treatments on pamper evenings are £10 for 30 minutes, with the proceeds donated to the running and upkeep of the hospice. It was a lovely way to spend an evening.
There are a multitude of events and experiences made available, all in aid of continuing the excellent work taking place at Bedford Daycare. In the next few weeks alone you can attend a coffee morning (4th June. I'll be there. Come along, I'll buy you a coffee.), the Sweetings nightclub 30th reunion (11th June), a river cruise including food and bubbles (13th July), Proms in the Park (tickets purchased from the hospice will donate £5 back to them), and the Purple Butterfly Ball in Pavenham (17th September). There is so much to get involved in, all great fun. There is something for everyone, and it all contributes to your brownie points! You can find out more about future events, and the hospice itself at http://bedforddaycarehospice.org.uk/About.htm. You can also find out more about the Butterfly Boutique on the Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/butterflyboutiquebedford/?fref=ts.
There are thousands of charities out there, all needing support and funding. Many of them are almost faceless. We receive pamphlets through our doors, asking for help, collectors on the high street, informing us about the good work occurring. But it's something else entirely to see it in practice. To talk to the people on the front line of it, day-to-day, delivering the care, working with the people, trying to keep everything running. These people care so deeply about what they do and who they do it for, you can see it when you talk to them, in the dedication they show to their work. They had a fundamental effect on both myself and my mum. We left wanting to, wishing we could, do more. And we're hoping to. The lounge in the main building needs a spruce up. If needed, we're going in, paint brushes in hand. We'll be attending their events, and jogging our friends to join in with us. There is a multitude of ways to help. New towels are needed for visitors. Cleaning products, items for the Boutique, charitable donations, time that can be given to improve onsite areas. Painters, decorators, plumbers, electricians, tinkers, tailors, soldiers, sailors, I'm calling on you guys. If you can help please do. You can contact me and I will pass on details. Alternatively you can contact the hospice directly on their site. But if you feel that you can offer anything, I really do, in the most heartfelt of ways, urge you to. Charities like this one, community based, quietly getting on with their work without making a huge fuss, are the ones that need help. They require our support in order to support others. I just hope that, should anyone I know and love ever need the assistance of such a wonderful enterprise, that they are still going strong, and that it is still filled with the kind of gold-hearted souls as it currently is.