Marie Curie “Helper” service.

Marie Curie is celebrating the rollout of its ‘Helper’ service across the whole of Devon and is calling on people to consider volunteering a few hours of their time each week to support local people with terminal illnesses and their families. The charity is looking for people who are interested in becoming a ‘Marie Curie Helper’, a volunteer who can visit someone with a terminal illness in their own home to provide companionship and emotional support, as well as practical help.

While it has previously been available in other parts of the country (and we have had some Helper Volunteers operating in North and South Devon for about a year now), we are happy to say we are now rolling out the service to the whole of Devon and are hoping people would like to help us support people in their local community.

Marie Curie Helper volunteers give around three hours a week of their time to offer a friendly ear and the opportunity to talk through any worries. Volunteers also help by providing practical support, information about local services, and enabling carers and family members to take a short break.

We are also looking for volunteer assessors for the Marie Curie Helper service, which entails visiting terminally ill people and/or their carers either in their own home, nursing home, or residential care to identify their needs and determine if the Marie Curie Helper service would be appropriate for them.

Kathy Holland, Marie Curie Helper Service Manager for Devon, said: “I am delighted to say that the Devon Helper service will now be supporting families and their carers across the whole of Devon. The Marie Curie Helper service has been very fortunate to attract volunteers who have come forward to be helpers and assessors who have embraced these new roles. Due to the increasing demand for support from families and their carer’s, we are now looking to recruit additional volunteers to add to our existing team. We will then be able to support even more families and carers with all terminal illnesses, who have a prognosis of 12 months or less.”

Jessica, a Devon Helper, said: “I am a 26-year-old single mum with a son who is nearly 3; I live in Torquay. I have been out of work since having my son but came across the Marie curie Helper role while I was scrolling the NHS jobs website looking for some part-time work. I read the description and saw that the role was voluntary and up to 3 hours per week. Originally my first thought was that this role would fit in well with my childcare and not be too much to take on, and also that it would probably look very appealing on my CV to future healthcare employers. I applied for the role and then had my interview with Kathy Holland, who was so reassuring, as naturally I was a little nervous about the role as I hadn’t any experience with terminally ill people nor any experience of death at all. She gave me lots of information about how this could be a great learning opportunity as I would have access to the Marie Curie online learning website and could choose which learning modules to complete (along with the few mandatory modules). This attracted me even more to the role. When I was matched with my first client in April 2017 I was very nervous, but I can honestly say that once I had stepped through the client’s door and saw her face I forgot all about her illness and just focused on her as a person. We were a great match and got on from that first visit. I wanted to know so much about her life and I looked forward to our visits each week. She had an amazing sense of humour and was such a positive, strong lady. Sadly she did pass away at the end of June and despite it not being a very long relationship, we did have a good bond and I know I made a difference. Her son thanked me for being there in the last few weeks of her life and said that he knows his mum looked forward to our visits. I can honestly say this was one of the most meaningful things I have ever done. It was a complete honour to have known her, even for a short few weeks”.

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