A day in the life of Living Well Wednesday volunteers

Alex, Barberine and Caroline

Meet our Living Well volunteering team, also known as the ABC team; Alex, Barberine and Caroline.


A: The patients arrive and are given a warm welcome by the volunteers and staff with a cup of tea or coffee and biscuits. For the next 40 minutes there’s general chat and catching up, introducing ourselves and getting to know the new patients. We have two today.

B: Living Well offers a ten-week personalised programme running on Wednesdays. The patients are referred by external health professionals or through self-referral. When they join, patients are offered help and support by the staff to manage their illness and symptoms. As volunteers, we support the patients with their care while they’re with us. Numbers fluctuate, but today we have eight patients of diverse backgrounds, each having interesting and often amusing things to tell us about themselves. Most have been driven to Sobell by the volunteer drivers. For some, the initial visit can be daunting, as just stepping into a hospice can conjure up anxiety. However, Living Well is a bright, inviting room, furnished with comfortable chairs and tables, and the walls filled with artwork the patients have created. There’s always a warm welcome to put patients at their ease, and the group soon has an atmosphere of support, mutual understanding and a knowledge that they’re all in it together; that they’re not alone.

C: By 10.30am, I’ve taken the lunch orders…


A: June, a nurse, joins us in Living Well to do gentle chair exercise with the patients called Tripudio Flow. She emphasises that they should do what they can, while remaining comfortable. We sway to gentle music, breathe deeply, and stretch along with the patients for fifteen minutes. Tripudio Flow is a mix of Pilates, yoga, and Tai Chi, and it aims to stimulate the lymphatic system and enhance well-being. Some patients love it, and others are less keen, but today everyone has taken part. We give ourselves a well-earned clap.

B: We all join in, as it’s beneficial for all of us!

C: Once Tripudio Flow is finished, I take the lunch orders to the kitchen. The chef wants the list by 11am so lunch is ready for midday. There was a week when one of our patients requested a sandwich with one white and one brown slice of bread, cut into eight pieces and circular if possible … we try to accommodate all requests!


A: We now adjourn to the big table to do an activity, which could be an art and crafts session run by Rachel the Therapy Assistant or a visual and topical discussion. One week, the patients might be doing lino cuts and the next, baking biscuits. Today they’re trying to guess objects hidden in a bag by exploring the shape, feel and outline and then drawing what they think it is. Laughter bubbles up as we try to guess what we’ve all drawn. About every eight weeks someone from Oxford’s local museums brings artefacts into Sobell House – some originals and others replicas – for the patients to study and guess what they are. The first time the Museum worker came in, I was amazed to be holding a bright orange, wiry hair from a woolly mammoth. An enduring memory will be a patient trying on a chainmail head piece; she really looked the medieval part.

B: This is my happy place and along with the patients, I love to participate in whatever artistic activity we’re doing. Interesting talk around the table is sparked by us all being together in a relaxed and mindful activity. It’s quite difficult to tear ourselves away at 12pm in order for the table to be laid for lunch.

C: I just watch when it’s art and crafts. I do try sometimes with not much success, but we all have fun. I’m far more helpful with the cooking sessions, I think!


A: Lunch today is preceded by winter vegetable soup, but as the chef explained, it’s the first day of spring – so next week he’ll be calling it spring vegetable. Caroline tells everyone about the lunches, and we all serve them.

B: The drinks trolley is something of a legend at Sobell House. Patients are familiar with the comforting clink of its bottles as it’s pushed along the corridor by a volunteer. Anything from spirits to sparkling water and juices is on offer, and the stock is often topped up with generous contributions from grateful patients and their families.

C: Every week there’s soup, sandwiches or a salad. For dessert, there are homemade cakes and ice cream and a cup of tea to wash it down.


A: Tom, the Music Therapist, has arrived with his laptop and Bluetooth speaker to start the afternoon music appreciation session. With YouTube at his fingertips, he can fulfil most of the requests from the patients and, if there’s time, the staff and volunteers too. As Tom explains, listening to music is a natural analgesic and can help with pain relief, so it’s a valuable addition to the day’s activities.

B: The music requests can be eclectic! The patients often have stories or memories behind their choices which can be emotional and heartwarming. Others will choose something that’s just popped into their head, and one or two others follow a theme each week. Sometimes we have even had dancing, as the beat was calling!

C: It’s always interesting to find out people’s choices in music.


A: As the volunteer drivers arrive, it’s a flurry of activity to gather coats, walkers and sticks before the patients head home. It’s been a good session. Everyone seems happy and the two new patients wave a fond farewell saying they’ll see us next week. This is a sure sign that we’ve done a good job, and they now feel part of the small but exclusive Living Well group.

B: Today it’s a tearful hug to a patient who is leaving us after their ten weeks; he will be greatly missed by us all. I always feel that, as a volunteer, we receive far more from our wonderful patients than what we give. Saying goodbye to a patient can be hard for them and for us too, but without exception they will have had care and advice to help them go confidently forward.

C: It’s been another busy day at Sobell, but it’s rewarding and satisfying to know that we’re doing a worthwhile job for those who need it most. I’m sure all of Team ABC agree!