Our 12 Days of Christmas campaign, highlighting the work of East Lancashire Hospice looks at how volunteers play a vital role and speaks to one of the hospice’s leading advocates about his personal connection

They say that time is the most precious gift of all.

East Lancashire Hospice has over 300 volunteers who give this gift every single day, week, month and year, throughout the whole hospice services including clinical, catering, gardens, maintenance shops and fundraising.

Long-time volunteer, and now Deputy Mayor of Blackburn with Darwen, Suleman Khonat tells us why he got involved, his concern for the lack of awareness of the service in the Asian Community and how it helped his own family.

Suleman said: “I have been involved with East Lancashire Hospice for over 10 years.

“My earliest memory was when I saw an appeal for donations towards replacing the roof of the Inpatients department. I managed to get in touch with a few companies and together with the Hospice, enough money was raised to complete the necessary work. At the time I did not know what the hospice was or what services they provided.

“The more I got involved and visited the hospice, I learnt about what services they had to offer and saw for myself the amazing work all the staff do. I also learnt that they rely heavily on generous donations from the public to make sure they can continue to provide help and care when and where it is needed.

“I was also concerned by the lack of awareness within the Asian community, and was determined to let people know by talking in community gatherings, mosques and local schools and arranging visits to the hospice where people could see for themselves the difference it makes.

“Never did I ever think, we as a family, would need it, but sadly my beloved wife Rabia had a cancer recurrence and needed end of life care. Rabia was admitted to the Inpatient Unit and sadly passed away there. I can say without a doubt the staff and volunteers treated my beloved wife with dignity and were amazing every moment she was there.

“All the family and visitors were also treated with the utmost respect and they simply could not do enough for us. We are eternally grateful to them all.

“I am determined to carry on raising awareness because my family and I know how much they do and want to continue to raise funds they desperately need.”

You will see Suleman, family and friends holding their usual bucket collection in The Mall Blackburn on Christmas Eve.

If you would like to help Suleman with his collection, fundraise, volunteer of make a donation visit www.eastlancshospice.org.uk/christmas or call our Fundraising Team on 01254 287014.