As part of our 12 Days of Christmas campaign, highlighting the work of East Lancashire Hospice we look at the vital role that the hospice’s counselling team can play

Prior to the pandemic, Najjif Shah volunteered as a counsellor at East Lancashire Hospice, dedicating an hour every Wednesday evening over a period of eight months and balancing it alongside working full time as well as his own personal caring responsibilities.

Fast forward a year, and on November 1, 2021, Naj as he is fondly known, officially joined the hospice team.

He said: “Initially coming as a volunteer, I never thought I’d be here. It’s like I never left. I knew Carol and her team of counsellors, Sue and Hazel, from the time I spent here previously and I’ve gelled really well with the Nurses and the Hospice at Home Team with whom I work as part of my role. I’ve received a really warm welcome and have been helped and supported by all my colleagues. I feel very grateful to have such a lovely place to work.”

Naj has been able to draw on his previous experience in caring and compassionate roles and since qualifying as a counsellor four years ago, had been working as part of a Youth and Development Project in Preston, engaging young people in sports such as football, pool and volleyball as well as mentoring them on matters concerning faith, school and home life.

Naj added: “As a counselling team, we offer support via the phone, whats app video conferencing or in person, to people who have experienced a bereavement and as a result may be suffering from anxiety or depression.

“Throughout the pandemic we have also been able to offer our services to residential homes and our service is open to anyone over the age of 16 within Blackburn, Darwen, Hyndburn and the Ribble Valley irrespective of a connection with the hospice.

“Although, many of the people I speak to have lost a family member through end of life and palliative care, we provide everyone with support and an ear to listen at the time when they need us the most.

“We support people of all faiths and I personally speak three languages in addition to English including Urdu, Punjabi and Guajarati which is particularly beneficial to some of our patients.

“Only the other day, I met with a lady whose first language wasn’t English and so I was able to converse with her in her native tongue, which gave her great comfort to know that her words were not lost in translation and helped us to quickly build trust, which is a key part of being a counsellor.”

If you or anyone you know would like more information on the help support the East Lancashire Hospice counselling team are able to provide, please call (01254) 287009 or visit our website