5 Minutes with wHoo Cares | Your Cancer Services

02 April 2021 - by David Allen

wHoo Cares opened their doors in 2016 with 3 members of staff and a handful of willing volunteers who wanted to make a positive difference to people in their community in a rural area of Medway in Kent, known as the Hoo Peninsula.

Over the past 5 years they have grown to a team of 8 staff members, half of who work full time tackling social isolation, loneliness and health inequalities. The team is hugely supported by a wonderful group of volunteers, many of whom are locals of the Peninsula villages.  The volunteer team currently has 60 volunteers who are actively supporting others in the ME3 postcode have played a crucial part in helping during the pandemic. We spoke to the team to find out more.

What services do you offer people living with cancer?

We provide a variety of services that help people to be active and involved in their community.

Whatever life throws at us you can’t measure the power of a cuppa and a chat and much of the support we provide is our befriending services.  Our team of trained and DBS checked volunteers are on hand to provide friendship, support and a listening ear. Our team of volunteer drivers are available to help you get to those essential health appointments and also accompany you if needed.  We also offer support to people who are caring for others.  We can help you to become involved in many different types of groups and activities and will walk through the door with you too if you need a buddy to accompany you.

Do you have a target demographic who use your services?

We can support anyone over the age of 18.

How are you funded?

wHoo Cares is registered as a Community Interest Company and we received our initial funding from DERiC (Developing and Empowering of Resources in Communities) which works to create and sustain partnerships between people in communities and the public bodies that provide services to them. wHoo Cares was developed by a group of volunteers (currently serving as the Board of Directors) and a team from DERiC along with the support of Medway Council, and have been registered since July 2015.  Since we began, we have received funding from different platforms but recently we have since received funding from The National Lottery Community Fund.

How have things changed for you since COVID-19?

Since the pandemic began in 2020 our services have changed but we have continued to support our community in any way we can.  Although face to face befriending has been postponed, we have a team of Telephone Befrienders who offer regular, long term support.  We are able to assist people who are unable to get out and about, with a shop and drop service as well as collecting and delivering prescriptions.  When restrictions allow, we are able to assist with essential health appointments.  All our volunteers receive on-going training, and we have strict guidelines in place to keep Partners (clients) and Volunteers as safe as possible.  We provide all types of PPE for both parties such as facemasks, hand gel, anti-viral car sprays and car curtains to prevent the spread of Covid 19.  Our Volunteer Drivers also regularly attend lateral flow testing.

What’s the most rewarding thing about the work you do?

The most rewarding part of what we do is undeniable the interesting and inspirational people we have the pleasure of meeting.  We are a relatively small organisation, and we like to feel we are ‘one big family’.  It is important to us that everyone feels like they belong to wHoo Cares and that they know we are available to them whenever they need a little bit of help or support.  Seeing someone’s life improve from our support is very rewarding.

What would you say to those who are considering getting in touch with you but are nervous or apprehensive?

You will never be just a name on a piece of paper!  You will matter to us and whether you need short term or long term support we will be here for you.  Everyone needs a bit of support from time to time and asking for help is a strength not a weakness.  Many of our clients have been with us for a number of years and as their needs change so does our support.  We are a friendly bunch and when we aren’t living through a pandemic there is usually lots of cake too!

Do you have testimonials from people that have used your services?

““I am prepared to isolate but the only reason I am able to do this is because of wHoo Cares. They do my shopping every week so my concerns, my big worries, they have taken that away from me. My telephone befriender calls me twice a week; great guy! As long as I have wHoo Cares then I am alright”

“Dave (Volunteer) has been a champion from the start but since my health has deteriorated, he has literally been a life saver.  He has helped me so many times.   Dave calls me every week to see how I am doing.  I couldn’t ask for a better person in my life.”

“I’m writing on behalf of my mum, who is contacted by the lovely Sandra for a weekly chat. I can not tell you how much my mum appreciates Sandra’s calls, they always give mum a lift and is something she very much looks forward to, especially at a time when life feels very lonely with limited contact with the outside world. Lastly, thank you to all your team for caring, I’m sure it is appreciated not only by my mum but by everyone that you help.”

Who works for you?

  • Christine Chetwood – Manager
  • Michelle Trumper – Community Development Officer
  • Caroline Hardingham & Nicola Dent – Community Life Planning Corodinators
  • Mark Knott – Dementia Befriender
  • Lucia Fernandez-Segura – Volunteer Coordinator
  • Kathryn Cheeseman – Volunteer Administrator
  • Pauline Martin – Receptionist

What are the values of your organisation?

To support residents in the community and empower positive change for individuals and the area.

And finally, can you describe your organisation in 3 words?

Making a difference.

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