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National Storytelling Week: "My stories make me proud to work for this wonderful organisation."
Andy Furneaux is a hospice ambassador and works within our fundraising team. His role is to spread the word about Saint Francis Hospice and to boost our income by encouraging people to support the hospice by either playing the lottery or sponsoring a nurse. Thanks to his love of a conversation (!), Andy often finds himself meeting extraordinary people and discovering their stories...
I have been an ambassador for Saint Francis Hospice for almost five years. In that time, I have met all types of people from patients, to long-term supporters, to new supporters. Our role is to speak of the work of the hospice and what it does for this community and to encourage people to support and continue that work.
When knocking on someone's door or speaking to people at a local event, you can be met with somebody that has had experience of hospice care and also somebody that has no knowledge whatsoever. I take great pride in the fact that I represent the hospice and am able to educate and inform people about our services.
I've always had an outgoing personality and am most definitely a people person, so this leads to some very interesting stories and conversations. The most memorable, I'd like to share below...
The story of Lily and Terry
Lily had been a long-term supporter of the hospice so we delved into conversation when I knocked on her door one day. As we chatted, suddenly, she asked me to: "wait there young man"! She went back into her house and retrieved a poem she had written that was inserted inside her invitations for her 25th wedding anniversary some years ago. The poem was about the fact they didn't need any gifts, but the hospice did. This is typical of many people I meet in the surrounding areas of the hospice - very giving, kind people.
I walked away from that particular occasion with a smile on my face - and a sign up to the lottery, of course!
The wedding invite from 1986, still in excellent condition!
My next story however, still brings me to tears as I tell it.
I knocked on a lady's door in December 2015 and it took a while for her to answer. As soon as she saw my bright orange uniform, her eyes filled with tears. She explained instantly that her son, in his 30s, was a current patient for the third time. She also explained he wouldn't be coming home. This of course was very upsetting but she also explained that the hospice had been extremely supportive at this time and we talked for well over twenty minutes about everything we were doing for her son.
I left her safe in the knowledge the hospice was doing their very best for this family.
A story that reminds me of the exceptional things we do...
One particular day I was set up in the Mercury Mall in Romford with my hospice podium talking to local people. A lovely woman came up and said to me, quite randomly: "I was the first person to ever marry at the hospice". Intrigued, I obviously said: "Do tell! And it turns out that her husband's brother was desperately ill in the hospice and he was due to be the best man at this wedding. So very swiftly, with lots of help from the hospice chaplain, it was arranged that the couple's marriage service should take place at the hospice so the brother could be present.
Bradley and Christina marry at the hospice chapel in 2006.
Isn't that incredible? The couple are now approaching their 10 year anniversary and still come to the hospice every year to make a donation and pay their respects.
These stories, all very different, carry a common theme for me. They all make me very proud to represent such a wonderful organisation.