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Julian Bowers-Brown has been volunteering at Ashgate Hospice for almost three years. When he first joined, he worked out in the community supporting children between the ages of seven and 12 following the death of a close relative.
Then the pandemic hit, and Julian was no longer able to volunteer in this way. Instead, he joined the team at the hospice’s Inpatient Unit at Old Brampton as a Volunteer Chaplain.
So, what does a Chaplain do?
On first impression, chaplaincy is often associated with religion and religious beliefs, however, the practice itself is not specific to any religion. Here at Ashgate, we have staff and volunteers who have a range or personal beliefs and backgrounds.
Julian said: “Spiritual and Pastoral Care is sometimes referred to as ‘a ministry of presence’. It’s not going in with an agenda. Instead, it’s a way of tenderness with someone. It’s asking myself how can I can be of service to each person.”
Often described by others as being a calming presence, Julian is a practising Zen Buddhist, and sees his volunteer role as an extension of his meditation practice. He believes that by developing a clear mind, he can focus more on others and what they might need in that moment.
He describes the key skill needed for the chaplaincy role as the ability to deeply listen and develop a sense of what a person is feeling as well as what they are saying.
He said: “It’s being there for people and being with them, both physically but also listening even and especially in difficult moments, not trying to get out the door.
“It’s listening so as to help them process whatever thoughts and feelings are on their mind or in their heart. It may be their life stories and fascinating tales, or something deeply personal they feel they can’t talk to their loved ones about.
“Sometimes it can be a very distressing situation, either for the patient or family and it’s being able to be there with them in the moment.”
Why Ashgate Hospice?
Julian was drawn to palliative care and working with people who are at the end of their lives after his own experiences of his uncle and sister’s deaths.
He said: “I could see that being able to be with someone and help them to be able to express what they were feeling when they knew they were dying can be very powerful. I just want to use my skills to support people in whatever way I can.”
At Ashgate Hospice we have a wide variety of volunteering roles and opportunities available for all skill sets and professions, so many in fact we don’t advertise every role on our website!
If you would like to volunteer but don’t see a vacancy that matches what you’re looking for, please contact our volunteering team at email@example.com who would love to have a chat and find the role for you.