Here to help at the toughest of times
Caroline Evans, 44, is the new head of
community engagement at Prospect Hospice. She lives in Bristol with husband Christian, a telecommunications worker, and children Karsten, 13, and eight-year-old Skyla. Caroline and the rest of the Prospect team are preparing for Hospice Care Week
SHE’S been there only a little over three weeks, but Caroline Evans already understands what Prospect Hospice means to the community it serves.
“I think it’s about the free and unreserved support and care given to people at the end of their lives.
“It gives back a degree of freedom of choice and it supports families through some of the most difficult times of their lives.
“But we don’t just stop at the death of a loved one – we support those families for as long as they need us.
“I think the Swindon area has got a really strong sense of community, and we’re living proof of that strength of community feeling.”
The newcomer will be in the thick of Prospect’s Hospice Care Week activities, which will culminate on Saturday, October 12 – World Palliative Care Day.
“This year we’ll be launching a pledge wall, mainly through our website, but it will also be accessible through our shops and here at Prospect.
“We’re looking for people to pledge to get involved in the community, to volunteer, to offer to have one of our boxes to put change in. We’re going to be recognising the work of our volunteers, some of the activities the staff are involved in, and we’re going to be asking the community to get behind us.”
Caroline was born in Billinge, a village which was then in Lancashire but is now in Merseyside.
Her father was in sales with engineering firm GEC and her mother was a court clerk in Leeds whose duties often saw her work with controversial judge James Pickles. Both of Caroline’s parents are retired. She has a sister, Lorraine.
The family moved to Yorkshire when Caroline was 18 months old, and she grew up in Selby.
On leaving school she went to work with a major telecommunications firm where she was to remain until earlier this year. “I joined in 1987 as a clerical assistant. I then got my A-Level results and they were pretty good so I was asked to do a degree in financial accounting. I went to Camberley College – I had day release from work and graduated in 1991.”
The young woman rose through the ranks, first as a management accountant and then in sales, which included handling Home Office and defence-related accounts. Moving to Bristol in 1998, she commuted daily to her London office, and eventually led her own department.
Having succeeded in that field, though, she decided the time had come for something new. “I had the opportunity to take stock of my career and my life. I thought, ‘I could carry on doing this for the next 10 or 15 years until I retire, but my children are getting older and I think they need me more.’ “I made a decision to leave and had intended to take a year off just to think about taking another degree or look around for voluntary work. But I was just looking at certain job sites and this role leaped out at me.”
Caroline is the hospice’s first head of community engagement. The role was created to allow the hospice to engage with more of the community than ever before, both to tell people about its services and encourage fundraising efforts.
The hospice has 190 staff and serves about 2,000 seriously ill people per year, most in the community but many at its 16 inpatient places in Wroughton. Prospect Hospice costs £10,000 per day to run, of which only 28 percent is provided by the NHS. The rest comes from the public, and the hospice relies on 17 charity shops and a network of fundraisers.
According to Caroline, countless skills she learned in the corporate world still serve her well. She said: “I think I bring a degree of organisation and leadership to my team. I being focus to what it is we’re trying to do.”
Her commitment to her new role and to the hospice is absolute: “It’s the difference we make at some of the toughest times of people’s lives.
“Coping with a life-limiting illness or an illness at the end of life is so hard for anybody who ever goes through that experience, but the care and compassion that’s shown by our members of staff and volunteers to patients, families and supporters is just overwhelming.
“The responsibility for keeping this hospice going is absolutely part of the community effort.”
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