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Volunteers’ Week 2023: Christine’s story
Christine Goddard volunteers as part of our Psychological Services Team. The pandemic and a breast cancer diagnosis meant she had to put that on hold for a while, but she remained connected to St Nic’s.
During the pandemic, Christine began painting portraits of those healthcare professionals connected to her journey; she then expanded this to other key and frontline workers.
With a collection of 101 portraits, Christine decided to turn them into a book, HOPE, which captures snapshots and reflections of our Covid-19 experiences, giving a little insight into the impact of covid on individuals and our communities.
All proceeds from HOPE will go to St Nicholas Hospice Care, for which we are so grateful.
Here Christine talks about HOPE and her volunteering for St Nic’s.
“I think it was in 2017 that I started doing voluntary work for the Hospice. When I retired from full time employment, though continuing with my private Counselling practice, I felt I had a little bit more time to contribute to voluntary work.
At that time, I was also Chairman of Breckland Older Peoples Forum, with which I’d had involvement for about eight years. I am particularly interested in all aspects that affect or impact older people, which also encompasses end of life, so that was my rationale for doing something for the Hospice.
My volunteer work, until Covid-19, was seeing several clients a week either at the Hospice or in their own homes for one-on-one support sessions. But when Covid arrived, together with my breast cancer diagnosis, I had to put work on pause for a while but still maintained my interest and contact with the Hospice.
It was during that time that I started portrait painting, which I suppose you could say was also the beginning of this book.
When I received my breast cancer diagnosis in November 2020, I decided that I needed to focus on something purposeful and meaningful, so I set myself the challenge of painting the portraits of the health professionals I encountered on my journey. I began with the Multi-Disciplinary Breast Care and Oncology teams at West Suffolk Hospital, and it grew from there.
I then widened the net to paint others loosely connected to myself who make a difference in our local community, staff from my local doctor’s surgery, pharmacy, fire service, and so many more have featured.
As a leaving gift, I was asked to paint the portraits of two long-serving Hospice nurses, these are included in the book, and one of the nurses has shared her experiences of working through Covid in the book too.
I enjoyed presenting each finished portrait as a thank you for the care I had received, and I asked the then Chairman of Breckland District Council, Cllr Roy Brame to present the portraits with me which created a bit of a buzz and a much-needed morale boost through the difficult times we were all experiencing at that time.
I was invited to show my portraits in a digital exhibition at Harrods of Hingham Community Gallery, it seemed to go down really well and I was pleased that it drew attention to our frontline workers who worked so hard to look after us all through those tricky times.
When I started painting the portraits, I had no idea that I would end up painting 101 lovely people, or that I would have an exhibition or put it all together in a book!
After the exhibition several people started saying that I should put all the portraits together in a book, which was a whole new idea for me. So I decided to ask all those I that I had painted if they would like to write a little piece about their experiences of working through Covid-19 – and so it developed into a book of our shared experience – a sort of ‘team book’.
All of the stories have been quite different; some of them have been uplifting, some of them have been sad, and some of them made me cry when I read them, but together they all tell a local story of our shared journey through Covid-19. I feel pleased that this book has captured these snapshots and reflections of our shared Covid-19 experiences, it seems amazing that so much has already been forgotten.
Painting the portraits was my therapy at a difficult time. When I handed the portraits over and thanked my subjects, people seemed genuinely pleased, and it proved to be quite a morale boost; it felt uplifting and good for everyone. I have met some really lovely people along the way and heard their stories.
I felt that the book ought to be benefited from in some way, and decided that it felt appropriate for all the proceeds to go to St Nicolas Hospice.
I now continue to support the Hospice by offering reflective practice for some of the volunteers who are doing the client work. I still feel that I am contributing and helping in that way, and now that the book is finished, I hope to have a little more time to do a little more.
I enjoy volunteering for St Nic’s. It’s good to feel part of a team and knowing that St Nicolas Hospice does such a lot of good work both at the Hospice and in the community to support individuals and their families at a very difficult time in their lives.”