Three years ago 54-year-old Anthony* was happily living with his girlfriend Doreen who was 43. He sat at home one evening waiting for her to come home from her job as a chef and as it got later and later and she still wasn’t home he started to worry.
At around 7.30pm he got a call from the hospital to say that Doreen had had an asthma attack and he needed to get to there as soon as possible. Sadly Doreen couldn’t be saved and her family made the decision to switch off her life support two days later. Anthony was by her side and as he said goodbye to her he could see tears in her eyes.
After Doreen’s death Anthony was lost. His mum had died a few years before and he still missed her. Although his friends tried to help he felt as if he was in limbo and was worried that he would do something destructive to try and forget everything. He didn’t want to turn to drink or drugs as he knew that wouldn’t help.
He made the decision that helping someone else might make him feel better. He went to the Volunteer Centre Hackney and they asked him what he wanted to do. They contacted St Joseph’s Hospice.
He filled in an application form and went to meet the Volunteer Co-ordinator. He did a volunteers test and passed, the first test he had ever passed and he was thrilled and so proud. He decided to enrol on the Compassionate Neighbours training and he loved it from day one.
He thought that being dyslexic might hold him back but the project leaders, Joy Kahumbu and Richard Julian really helped and reassured him.
After 'graduation' Anthony was matched with 82-year-old Fred*. Fred had had a stroke and Anthony admits that first of all the relationship was difficult. Fred wasn’t easy to get to know so he tried to read what was going on in his head.
He tried lots of things and one day he played him some music. Fred’s face lit up and that was the start of their beautiful friendship. Now every time Anthony goes to see Fred, he says 'Play the music and get the kettle on my friend!'
Anthony said, "If I hadn’t have come to St Joseph’s I think I would have just ended up walking up and down the street, I wouldn’t have known what to do with my life. Now I’m happy and feel good. I love looking after people and make them feel happy.
"Just because people are old and ill it doesn’t mean they haven’t got a life to live and enjoy. We play dominoes and listen to music and life is good, for both of us."
*Name has been changed to protect identities.
For more information please contact Carly Attridge, Head of Volunteering or Richard Julian, Project Manager.