When James Dewar worked for ellenor he could not have known that some years later he would be using their vital services himself.
Since suffering four strokes the 68-year-old has found the physiotherapy offered at the Gravesend hospice invaluable. The twice weekly seated exercise classes have kept him mobile and given him a more positive outlook.
He said: “The classes have really helped me. I’m pretty lazy to be honest and can’t do anything on my own as I can’t motivate myself, but I meet such an interesting group of people at ellenor. They are from all walks of life, all different cultures – we all have different problems, but we are all there for the same reason.”
The classes are open to anyone in the community who could benefit, not just inpatients at the hospice.
James said: “As I had worked for ellenor in the past I already knew about their services. There’s a good atmosphere and when someone does the wrong thing, we all laugh. The hour goes by so fast. We limber up then exercise our arms and legs – it really does help and after a while you can start to feel the difference.”
James and his wife Anne moved to the UK from Cape Town in South Africa in 2007 to be near their daughter Raquel. Unfortunately, the financial crash a year later put an end to his well-paid job and James started to look in the charity sector for work. He found employment with various charities including ellenor.
He said: “When we moved here, I had a good job, but then my world got turned upside-down. After being made redundant I did several jobs to keep us afloat. I would clean the ellenor offices at Swanscombe from 6-8am, then do the maintenance work there. After that I would work in a shop in the evening. Then I was offered a position managing ellenor’s Dartford and Swanley shops, which was a great opportunity for me.
“They knew I had some experience of business as in South Africa we had a fish and chip shop and a business selling fresh fish. I was able to put some of my knowledge to good use. In fact, we tripled the turnover at the Swanley shop.”
James and his team of volunteers reassessed the stock on display and started to sell more of the items that made a profit. Shoes were always a big hit with the Swanley shoppers. James even drove his car around residential areas picking up small unwanted items of furniture people had left outside their properties.
He said: “I had a meeting with the volunteers and explained I had been employed to help the shop make a profit for ellenor. It was so exciting. It got to the point that the volunteers waited after the end of their usual four-hour shift for us to cash up and see how much we had raised each day.”