You might get the feeling that my involvement in Rotary is a lot of meetings. That might be true, but think only in the good sense of meetings. That is, the good thing of meeting people, talking and learning, rather than boring meetings that drone on forever with no aim.
Meeting Steve Auty, another new Rotarian, at the Pilgrims Hospice was another huge learning experience for me. Firstly, let me tell you what Pilgrims is and what it does. The hospice movement steps in once the NHS step out. When you have a terminal disease and you can no longer be treated, the hospice movement will help you and your family cope with that news and make sure the last stage of your life is the best it can be. As Steve said to me, as a society we rarely speak of what happens when you know you're going to die and we should probably speak to each other more about it. While some of us will die suddenly, for others there will be a period where a doctor runs some tests and tells us there is little that modern medicine can do for us. If that's said to you, what will you do?
The hospice movement is entirely funded by charitable donations. They will be there with specialist staff to help not only you come to terms with things, including managing treatment that can ease suffering through to the end of your life, but the hospice movement will be there for your family too. Steve explained to me that many people view the hospice movement as somewhere you go to die, but in reality only 40% of ... i don't think patient is the right word but it will do for now, only 40% of patients die in the hospice. Many make a decision they would prefer to die at home and the hospice will do everything they can to allow people to stay at home instead of in the hospice itself. While the number of volunteers at the hospice outweigh paid staff by a huge amount, some staff need qualifications and resources cost money. The hospice needs around 8 million pounds a year to run. This funding allows them to care for around 4,000 people in the final stages of life, out of around 6,000 people that deserve their care and attention in the area Pilgrims Hospice covers.
Please read this with the notation that I've typed these figures from memory, if they're grossly wrong I'll correct them but I'm sure they're near enough. Pilgrims would very much like to expand their service to look after all the 6,000 people in East Kent and they are working hard towards growing their fund raising base to provide this.
I've been fortunate in that I've visited a lot of places through my business. I've seen large offices and small offices, offices for designers with no expence spared and offices for workshops with sawdust or machine oil on every surface. Visiting Pilgrims I felt straight away that every penny donated to them goes to the cause and not to the office furnishings! Part of Steve's office was occupied by a folding bed. When I asked about it he said it had been donated by someone, along with another pile of things in another corner. His office was used for storing lots of donations, if the space was needed it was used. Steve is the Chief Executive of Pilgrims Hospice and his coffee table, chairs, desk and filing cabinets looked like they'd seen service since the 1970's. That's not to say there was anything wrong with the furnishings, they were all fully functional. If anything it made me appreciate even more how this charity is focused directly on it's cause and that niceties like matching furniture really aren't important. I can say with 100% confidence this is a cause worth supporting and definitely within the ethos of "Do Good Things".
But what to do? Well, another new Rotarian, Diane, already has that in hand. She's organising a summer ball to take place next May in order to raise funds for Pilgrims. Pilgrims haven't had a summer ball before. Diane's original target was to raise 40,000, although that's since been changed to 50,000 because in her words "I've been offered a better venue than I thought I could get".
Wow! To me those figures sound huge but the more I get to know Diane the more I just know it's going to happen.
So, two good causes, presentation day next - how we presented it and how it all went.
Oh, I almost forgot, I spent some time with Steve talking about his past as well. He made the rank of Commodore in the Navy (that's very, very senior officer!) and told me a couple of great stories of his time in the forces. There's some amazing experience and knowledge in our Rotary club, the more I meet with people, the more I'm glad I joined.