The Gazette has been finding out what it’s like to volunteer for North Devon Hospice as part of its #250000Hours campaign – this week, reporter Matt Smart visited The Long House
North Devon Hospice covers a region that spans 800 square miles, meaning not everyone can travel to the charity’s main base in Barnstaple.
It’s for that reason The Long House was opened in September 2015. Next to Holsworthy Medical Centre on the outskirts of the town, the setting is tranquil and provides a welcome service to people from Torrington to as far afield as Okehampton and Bude.
It’s at The Long House where I have volunteered, with the house hosting a ‘pamper day’ for patients and carers.
The days bring much-needed relaxation for those suffering with a life-limiting illness, as well as the family members who may provide the bulk of their care.
Here they can be treated to a complementary massage, manicure, pedicure or haircut, as well as socialise with others.
The beauty therapists are all volunteers, and as therapy co-ordinator Mandy Bateman explains, there’s always a need for those who are willing to help.
“We are always looking for more volunteers – especially for things like hairdressing and manicures and pedicures,” she said.
“Those are the sort of things that people don’t take time to do themselves and are often most effective when having chemotherapy, as it can lead to a loss of sensation in your fingertips and toes.
“There’s definitely a sense that people are worn out when they get in and it’s just a real chance to recharge the batteries.”
The 10 people coming for the pamper day experience nearly all come from different places in the area and are different ages, but the tranquil and relaxing setting provides a perfect place to socialise and talk, whether it’s about interests and news or their experiences with illness.
One of those is Holsworthy resident Janet.
She said:“You just feel lighter when you leave, and if you’re feeling quite low in yourself, you can come in and then you leave with a smile on your face.
“It’s somewhere where we can go and unwind.
“It’s somewhere where we can talk about things and make friendships and relax for a few hours, and it would be much more difficult if we didn’t have this place, to be honest.”
The Long House has already gained one new volunteer in 2017 in the form of Maxine Harding.
She said: “I came to an open day here. I came along and met people and had a volunteer application and went from there.
“What blew me away about being a volunteer is the staff are just so thankful. I have never been in a place where you get that and you feel really valued.”
If you’re interested in volunteering for North Devon Hospice, email firstname.lastname@example.org