St Catherine’s Hospice needs friendly faces

Friendly face: Bob Watson  with Mitch Johnson
Friendly face: Bob Watson with Mitch Johnson
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A befriending service run by a Lancashire hospice is appealing for more volunteers.

St Catherine’s Hospice in Lostock Hall, near Preston, provides a lifeline of comfort and support for those affected by a terminal condition.

The service run by the Family Support Team gives carers the opportunity to provide a trained volunteer to sit with a person for up to four hours each week, offering company and a supportive ear.

This gives the main carer the chance to take a well-earned rest or complete tasks like shopping.

Now the team is recruiting new volunteers, with the aim that the service can be extended to reach people living alone with life-limiting illnesses, as well as those who have a carer.

The aim is to reduce the isolation and loneliness people on their own may experience when living with such conditions.

Befriender Mitch Johnston is a volunteer with the service and he currently visits Bob Watson, who has kidney cancer, each week giving Bob’s wife Cath the chance to do things such as visit the hairdresser or catch up with a friend.

Mitch, a retired prison officer, said: “Coping with a life-limiting illness can be very restrictive and also very stressful.

“The reality of what people are going through was really brought home to me when I started volunteering with the befriending service.

“For me to give a few hours a week to someone is not a big ask, but it means such a lot to them and can make a big difference. I’ve been visiting Bob for some time now and have built up a strong relationship with him and his family. People put a lot of trust in you when they are in that situation – that in itself is rewarding.”

The Family Support Team at St Catherine’s aims to match people up according to interests and backgrounds.

Bob, 68, who lives in Ashton, Preston, and is a great-granddad of one, said: “I was a little apprehensive at first when the idea was put forward.

“But Mitch and I clicked straight away. We’ve got a lot in common and it’s great to have someone to chew the fat over with. We talk about sports and what’s been going on in the news. It’s nice to have the company.

“It also means Cath can go out and have a bit of time to do the things she needs to do without worrying about me and whether I am okay.

“It’s important that she gets a break away from the house and it means she can have peace of mind while she does that.”

Cheryl Scott, family support manager at St Catherine’s Hospice, said: “We’d like to reach out to more people in the local community who do not have direct dealings with the hospice, as well as more people living with conditions broader than cancer.

“It really does make a huge difference to the lives of those they are supporting.”

For more information about the service and the role contact Cheryl Scott on 01772 629171. To sign up for the volunteer training course – which runs from March 19 to 21 – contact Nikki Dobson on 01772 629171 /