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Fete Stories: The volunteer all the way from Boston, Massachussetts

Why Dorset’s hospice became an important stop on a year long study.

We value all of our volunteers at Weldmar Hospicecare – in fact, we couldn’t do what we do without them.

One event in particular that needs our army of volunteers out in force is our annual Summer Fete – they man stalls and games, serve milkshakes and ice cream, marshall visitors at the Park & Ride, and much more.

Our volunteers come from all over Dorset to help at the Fete, but one volunteer travelled a little further than most. Sophia Zupanc came all the way from Boston, Massachussetts, in the USA.

Sophia is a recent graduate of Wellesley College, and has been awarded the Thomas J. Watson Fellowship – one year of international study into a particular subject, and Sophia’s project is to explore what constitutes a ‘dignified death’, visiting hospices and other palliative care organisations.  Her studies and travels have already taken her to Greece, with India, the Netherlands, New Zealand, and Australia still to come after her short stop in England.

Following a day finding out about the work of the hospice from members of our team, Sophia manned the Coconut Shy at our Summer Fete (also looking after Martin Clunes’ dog while he had a go!), and helped right up until the last gazebo had been taken down and packed away.

“I was just Googling hospices in the UK, and Weldmar came up and I was really impressed by the community engagement I saw on the website, and now I’m here seeing it first hand.  I really wanted a chance to learn from it because hospices that are well integrated with the community aren’t something I’ve seen so much before”.

Sophia met with Weldmar’s Director of Fundraising and Marketing, Matt Smith, and Community Engagement Fundraiser Emily Fisher.  “What I was really impressed with was in the first five minutes of the meeting was that although Matt and Emily were in fundraising, they could have working everyday in the hospice itself, they were so passionate and knowledgeable about the workings of the hospice.  There can often be a disconnect between the business side and charitable side of organisations, so I was so impressed to see how well integrated that is here”.

Jane Johnson, Head of Operations, also met with Sophia.  “I was struck the most by the patient/family member testimonials that she shared with me”, says Sophie, “which were overwhelmingly positive (though Jane was quick to point out any negative ones are often the most informative), but the common theme through many was how grateful the patient or family member was that they were treated as an individual, and that great lengths were travelled to honour their wishes.  It reiterated to me the idea that honouring what matters most to individuals at the end of life is often most important.

“I think the biggest thing I’ll take from here is the ability to engage with communities surrounding the hospice.  I’ve really been impressed and overwhelmed with how jovial the atmosphere is at the community events, and how powerful that is in spreading the mission of what a hospice really is.  The thing I notice everywhere I go, is the taboo surrounding death, that when people think of hospices, they think that this is where people go to die and not a happy place, but here we are – the sun is shining, people are throwing coconuts, and it’s clearly not a sad place.  Hospices are so much more than what we perceive them to be.”

Not only has Sophia learnt about Weldmar’s work for her study, but she also now knows what a tombola is!

Follow Sophia's blog here

 

 

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