Everybody Needs Good Neighbours

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By Alison Moore, Hospice Staff


Over the last year North London Hospice has matched 61 people within our communities with Compassionate Neighbours – a scheme which links people willing to volunteer their time, companionship and support with those facing life-limiting illnesses in their community who need a little help or company.


Corinne Rodriguez is one such person who is enjoying involvement with Compassionate Neighbours. When we meet at her lovely Winchmore Hill home, the gardener is pottering around in the colourful courtyard and there’s time to scour the walls, which display a lifetime of achievements from a career spanning over 40-years as a Casting Director.


Photos of Liberace take pride of place in the kitchen – Corinne was in charge of his fan club, a role that led to her being expelled from school aged 15 for skipping class to meet him. With no qualifications, she began clerical work with the English Stage Company at the Royal Court Theatre and by the age of 21 – after a brief spell with the managers of The Kinks – she was asked to return to become their youngest ever Casting Director.


Fast forward through more than four decades at many London theatres, TV shows such as The Gentle Touch, Whoops Apocalypse, London’s Burning and films including Essex Boys with Sean Bean, and we reach 2008, when Corinne was diagnosed with breast cancer. She underwent successful treatment and was put on medication for five years, and as she says “Life was good.”


“Then the cancer returned and it had gone to my bones.”


Corinne has had a two-year association with NLH’s Health & Wellbeing Centre in Winchmore Hill to help her with symptom control for secondary breast cancer.


Many Benefits


A strong independent woman but, with no immediate family and close friends in other parts of the UK, Corinne has had to cope alone with her illness and the effects of her chemotherapy.


During one of her visits to our Health & Wellbeing Centre, Rebecca from our Community Development team asked if she would be interested in joining our Compassionate Neighbours programme. “I thought it was a lovely idea. If my health was more stable I would apply to be one!” she said.


All our Compassionate Neighbour volunteers are specially trained and matched with people in their local community who might need a lift to the shops or medical appointments or just someone to pop in for a cup of tea each week.


Corinne – who is the only professional to have been a member of the Laurence Olivier Theatre Awards panel on three occasions – met several volunteers. “I really hit it off with Mumtaz. We found we had lots to chat about and we now meet every few weeks. “


Corinne follows a two-week on one week off cycle of chemo at North Middlesex Hospital. “Mumtaz will meet me there, we have a meal and she stays with me while I have my treatment. It’s a nice distraction.”




Rebecca Eastick, Community Development Project Manager, said: “When volunteers take part in the training we get to know them a little and look for interests and personality traits that might work well with those that have asked to be linked with Compassionate Neighbours.


“The scheme enables people to stay connected to their community and avoid social isolation.”


Mumtaz Ahmad decided to become a Compassionate Neighbour after her husband experienced the benefits of having two. “He finds them great company so I thought I would like to become one.  It gives you an amazing feeling of being able to help someone in your neighbourhood. Although, sometimes I think I get more out of it than Corinne. She’s so interesting and I love hearing about her knowledge of the theatre and books. I learn something new every time we meet.


“There are different reasons for having a Compassionate Neighbour, whether it’s for support or company, but if you are able to give your time to become one, you will get just as much out of it as they do.”


Recently Corinne was introduced to Lisa, who’s working on a book about theatrical history. “We thought they’d have a lot in common and it’s worked out really well,” Added Rebecca. “It’s been a great introduction and quite reciprocal.  Corinne is able to help Lisa with her research and Lisa has offered to help Corinne sort some of her memorabilia to ensure it goes to the appropriate place for future posterity.”


If you are interested in learning more about becoming a Compassionate Neighbour or feel you might benefit from a Compassionate Neighbour introduction, please click here for further information and training dates.


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