Background Compassionate Neighbours, originated from the Public Health Palliative Care model, is a community development project aimed at developing mutually beneficial relationships that also helps build social capital and capacity within our communities. One hospice located in Scotland developed such an approach by expanding the role of volunteers within the hospice. Whilst hospices have long valued volunteers for their support in the provision of a de-medicalised, holistic approach to care, this new initiative reflects a longer-term, citizen-led investment that can equip communities to help one another during times of increased health need, loss and grief. Initiated and sustained during the COVID-19 pandemic, the project used an online blend of discussion, reflection and learning before matching Compassionate Neighbours with local people known to the hospice.
Aim To capture ‘compassionate neighbours’ experience and the impact of transitioning from a traditional volunteering role to a role reflecting the ethos of compassionate citizen.
Method Focus group inclusive of 10 volunteers that were part of the compassionate communities initiative and interviews with six people in the community they were ‘matched with’.
Results Analysis of the data so far has highlighted how:
The partnering process enabled the building of reciprocal relationships between volunteers and those they were matched with; vital to the success of the initiative.
The Compassionate Neighbours negotiated, developed and sustained a mutually beneficial relationship with those they were matched with, reflecting the compassionate communities approach within the Public Health Palliative Care model.
Conclusion Central to the project’s early success and future growth has been the emergence of a different kind of volunteer; one who sees him or herself as part of a community-led social movement involving ordinary people capable of responding in practical and compassionate ways to shared problems and needs in their own communities.
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