Coming together to explore
and develop community responses
to death, dying and bereavement.
Overview of Compassionate Communities project.
Volunteer & Get involved.
Quotes from community members.
Overview of Compassionate Communities project.
Supportive networks of family, friends, neighbours and community members, are the foundation of what matters most to those undergoing experiences of care-giving, approaching end of life, death and bereavement. ACE Compassionate Communities project is a 3 year Macmillan funded initiative hosted by Action in Caerau and Ely which will explore how communities can come together to support those who are approaching the end of their lives and their carers — it is one of three pilot projects across Wales.
The aim of the project is to explore how community development approaches, such as asset based community development and coproduction, can be used to support those experiencing death, dying and bereavement. Connecting and working with people living in the South West Cardiff communities with real, lived experience is central to our approach and we are committed to building meaningful relationships which can inspire, facilitate and enable compassionate conversations, acts and projects to happen. We believe our communities already possess the qualities to be a ‘compassionate community’ and through this project, we hope to nurture and develop these from the ground up.
We aim to develop a community response to death, dying and bereavement by:
- Enhancing support and compassion available to people experiencing isolation, loneliness or disconnection from the local community due to illness, caring responsibilities, approaching end of life and/or bereavement.
- Identifying and understanding unmet community needs in order to facilitate and explore community responses to these by working compassionately and co-productively with community members, local partners and other stakeholders. Where appropriate, ACE will facilitate the co-creation of new opportunities.
- To initiate conversations centered on death, dying and bereavement with people who live and work in the communities. In doing so, we hope people will feel more able to communicate what matters most to them in life and when planning for their death.
When a loved one dies, our life and world can change in an instant. We know that nothing can be said that can change how we feel or make it better but what we can do is turn up, listen and share. Grief Space is a peer bereavement support group where we do just that. Sharing your story and listening to others can help us realise that what we are feeling (or not feeling) is normal when grieving. We challenge the usual approach of offering platitudes and fixing each other, choosing instead to hold space and bear witness. Grief Space is not bereavement counselling or mental health support but it can be used in conjunction with these vital services.
Based on an initiative started by Compassionate Inverclyde, ACE Compassionate Communities project make and deliver Wellbeing Boxes to people living in Ely, Caerau, Canton and Riverside and who are:
- affected by cancer
- living alone
- at the end of life
- caring for someone at the end of life
- being discharged from hospital
These boxes include small handmade gifts, a Kindness Card, information about support and opportunities available through ACE and additional treats & goodies. They are delivered to community members by ACE volunteers and can be a stand-alone gift for the individual or, as often happens, can be the starting point for people to connect with ACE and have ripple effects that connect them with people, groups and services in the community.
When someone is coming to the end of their lives, time is precious. At ACE we understand that offering practical support with everyday tasks such as shopping and collecting medication can relieve pressure and instead allow families to spend quality time together. Volunteers are trained, supported and reimbursed to provide this practical support. In time, we also hope to develop a befriending project which will support carers and family members to take some time for themselves, whether that be to get on with other tasks, to take a break or to access services to support themselves within the community.
Wellbeing Coffee Mornings
Connection to community is vitally important when undergoing experiences of care-giving, end of life support, death and bereavement. Weekly drop-in sessions enable community members to come together, share experiences and support each other throughout these difficult times. They allow connections to develop, enhancing friendships and support networks. Wellbeing Coffee Mornings are informal and often include cups of tea and cake. From time to time, professionals from Macmillan and other partner organisations attend the coffee mornings to informally signpost to appropriate services.
Creative Grief Space
Creative Grief Space is a branch of Grief Space where community members can come together to explore their grief and loss through creative means. Facilitated by ACE Artist, Nic Parsons and Kimberley (Macmillan Development Officer), ‘Creative Grief Space’ is an exploration into how creative arts could help aid the process of those coping with loss. Participants are given an opportunity to share their stories in a safe supportive workshop environment, developing a creative narrative in the form of a mixed media artwork of their choice, whilst learning artistic skills that could be utilised as emotional support tools in the future. The space is grief-friendly and encourages peer support. Please check out our Instagram exhibition @creativegriefspace. This project is currently on hold awaiting further funding.
For more information, please go to the Creative Grief Space page.
Volunteer & Get involved
Gifts of the Head,
Heart & Hands
Volunteering with ACE is a great opportunity to offer your skills, ideas, personalities and time to your local community. We aim to work with volunteers to create bespoke opportunities that respond to their unique gifts, needs and aspirations. To do this, we encourage people to think about their Gifts of the Head, Heart and Hands. Gifts of the heart are anything that people do or give from the kindness of their hearts; gifts of the head are what they are knowledgeable about and what they could possibly teach others and finally gifts of the hands are anything that people can make/do.
This means volunteering opportunities are created with the volunteer at the centre and that community members can get involved as little or as much as you want. This has sparked some creative ways in which people can share their gifts and spread some kindness. Some people have shown interest in getting involved with our Wellbeing Boxes project. This could include creating handmade or crocheted gifts, packing boxes, making friendly follow-up phone calls or delivering them to people’s homes. Others are gifted in chatting and listening so have gotten involved with the Phone Friend project, offering a listening ear and even offering a friendly conversation in different languages. What gifts do you have that might guide you into a bespoke volunteering opportunity?
Do you have a little time to make a card, postcard or write a letter to someone who is isolated at home? A handmade and handwritten card adds a personal touch and can really brighten up a Wellbeing Box. Perhaps you and the family could make some on a rainy day and bring a little sunshine to someone’s day! These can be handed in or posted to the Dusty Forge for delivery onwards to community members.
We are always looking for lovely little goodies to put into our Wellbeing Boxes. This could be anything that brings comfort and joy to people who might be isolated at home for a number of different reasons. Donations such as biscuits, chocolates, individually packaged tea bags, hand creams etc. are lovely additions to the more practical support provided in the Boxes. Please get in touch if you have anything you would like to donate.
What do community members think?
Community member Helen speaking about a Grief Space session:
Is it normal to cry every day, or for people to not know what to say to you, or want to constantly talk about our loss? At Grief Space, I really feel that by sharing our bereavements, both recent ones and older, we all realise that whatever emotion we experience, in whatever order we experience them in, we’re all normal. Cry, get angry, feel sorry and then guilty! All normal. Take as long as you want, just make sure you don’t get stuck in one of the stages.
Talking to our group made me realise that my grief was in fact still as fresh as a daisy, but time had helped me put it into context, and although it could now be classed as ‘old’, it is as gut-wrenching to me as on the day my loved ones passed away. I am just able to cope with it now’.