Hospice is like a home from home for guests

thisisoxfordshire: Clinical volunteer co-ordinator Kate Barklie Clinical volunteer co-ordinator Kate Barklie

TEN years ago Douglas House welcomed guests for the first time after the Queen officially opened the new facility.

Now, a decade on, staff, volunteers and those families who have used the hospice in East Oxford are looking back on what has been achieved.

The specialist hospice was named after Douglas Bell, a blind young man, who visited neighbouring Helen House hospice more than 80 times until he died in 1993, aged 24.

In the past ten years Douglas House has helped hundreds of young adults aged between 16 and 35.

Clinical volunteer co-ordinator Kate Barklie manages the hospice’s small army of volunteers and co-ordinates the home volunteering and befriending scheme.

The number of volunteers in Douglas House, in Magdalen Road, has grown to more than 200 in-house roles.

Ms Barklie, who joined in 2005, is also behind a number of events in Douglas House including music nights and themed nights like murder mystery and Mexican evenings.

She said: “It is a wonderful organisation to work for. For me it has never really changed what it has done.

“The buildings have changed but that one-to-one care, that trust the families have, has never changed for me. It is a great team to be part of and everything we do we do together.”

Ms Barklie’s baby daughter Natalie was cared for by Helen House in 1985.

She died when she was just five-years-old in 1989.

She said: “I probably would never have worked here without Natalie.

“It makes me understand what families go through. But you cannot always understand, can you?”

Volunteers also accompany Douglas House guests on trips out, whether it is to Cowley Road or Glastonbury Festival.

Of the 10th anniversary, she said: “It is amazing. I knew Douglas. I knew him when he stayed in Helen House.

“I knew Penny, his sister. He would have loved it here. It is growing all the time. We have learned a lot about what works and what doesn’t.

“We were the first, we are learning.”

Ready to join friends at Douglas House

TEENAGER Samuel Bailey is looking forward to attending Douglas House, having been a Helen House guest for the past six years.

The Wantage 17-year-old, who relies on a wheelchair because he has the degenerative condition Duchenne muscular dystrophy, will move to Douglas House in the next year.

Samuel, who goes to Helen House 18 days a year, said: “They are very nice places, good places to go and relax and have fun. I met quite a few of my friends through there. I enjoy going out to the cinema and bowling.

“It is important to have Douglas House. It is good that it is still going and it looks modern.”

Samuel is studying for his IT BTEC diploma at Abingdon and Witney College.

Mum Penny said: “I think it is better for him to go to Douglas House than to be rushed into an adult situation.

“It is brilliant. It was the first one of its kind to take young adults.

“They need to have some more around the country.

“It is good for the parents to be able to have respite care.”

‘This is the perfect place for a break’

FOR 25-year-old Lizzie Waddington, Douglas House could not be more different from her first hospice experience.

When she was only 17 she found herself in a hospice surrounded by elderly people.

Then she went to Douglas House and found that the atmosphere was completely different.

Miss Waddington, from Berkshire, has a rare condition called gmi gangliosidosis, an inherited disorder that destroys nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord.

She is in a wheelchair and relies on her iPad to communicate through text.

She said: “I didn’t enjoy my first experience of a hospice because I was rushed in to my local one.

“Because it was a hospice for the elderly, three people died within five days and I was 17 at the time.

“I’m now 25 so Douglas House is perfect.

“It is like a home from home. Somewhere I get a break, so does my mum and she knows I am happy.

“It made me realise I can accept help and I have also come to terms with the situation with my disease.”

‘I just wanted to give something back’

VOLUNTEER Nick Wilkinson decided to give something back to the community.

Two years later the 41-year-old, from Windsor, Berkshire, still dedicates time to support the guests of Douglas House.

Mr Wilkinson, who works on the care team, said: “I just reached a point in life where I really wanted to give something back.

“I had had a very corporate career and I wanted to do something for other people.”

He added: “We spend time with the guests, hanging out, having fun and going out on trips.”

Speaking about the 10th anniversary, Mr Wilkinson said: “It is a lovely milestone and there is a lot happing in the house this year with the refurbishing of Helen House.

“It is just a celebration. It is an impressive achievement.”

The procurement director added: “The support for the volunteers is fantastic. People work around your lifestyle.

“Personally I do three hours at least once every two weeks or at the weekend.

“Sometimes I will go in once a week.”

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