Work In Their Shoes with Sophie - Garden

30 April 2019

Hello! I’m Sophie, and I work in the Marketing Team at Demelza. My role is to share the wonderful goings on here, from children, families, volunteers, fundraisers and more. I find it a real privilege to get to know the people of #TeamDemelza, as everyone comes with a unique story.

This year, inspired by our #NewYearNewYou campaign, I set myself a challenge to spend a day every month with one of the many teams that make up our organisation. Through a programme we have for staff called ‘Work in Their Shoes’, I’ll be showing you the many different facets it takes to make up Demelza as a whole, and recording it in a vlog.

I had my heart set on working in a particular pair of shoes for the month of April – Spring had finally sprung (yet remains indecisive about its arrival), the sea of Daffodils had crashed upon the grassy banks of Demelza’s Sittingbourne hospice, and there had even been a few butterfly sightings. With my bright pink wellies, I marched down toward the rear of the building to meet Sam, Demelza’s gardener.

If I had been in need of a sign that I would enjoy working in Sam’s shoes, it would have certainly been the packet of Jammie Dodgers (a.k.a. The Best Biscuits On The Planet) that Sam had brought for us. I’d asked Sam if I could spend the day with him early in the year and he’s watched all of my vlogs so far so I was really touched by the gesture – I have a fan! Sam has a few of his own fans around Demelza, as he pulls off a pair of red polka dot suspenders like no other.

There are a whopping six acres of land to look after at Demelza Kent, which as you can imagine takes a lot of work to maintain and keep looking beautiful through the changing seasons. Sam depends on a team of volunteers who bring their own experience, passion and enthusiasm to nurture these special areas. I met a few regulars who often come in and blitz a huge patch at a time – something that makes a noticeable difference to Sam.

The children, families and staff really do make use of the outdoor space, and it’s a delight to see the Care Assistants taking them out for a stroll to enjoy the sensory stimulation. It’s clear that a lot of thought has gone into how the space can be interacted with and enjoyed by any child with delightful sights, sounds, smells and grasses to touch.

One of my first tasks of the day was to prune back a beautiful buddleia tree in the Garden of Tranquillity so that it could grow back renewed and strong. As we were clipping back to new growth, Sam and I began chatting about how we ended up working at Demelza, and the conversation turned almost serendipitously to end-of-life care and how being ‘on the inside’ of an organisation like ours gave us a closer look at the reality of a children’s hospice. We notice how comforting it can be for families through the most unimaginably difficult times. The gardens undoubtedly play a role in that. It gives families space, and it gives them nature.

Sam kept me very busy with tasks all day like painting, weeding, feeding the Koi carp, planting sunflower seeds, deadheading wilted daffodils and even giving the playground a health and safety check. The highlights for me had to be driving a tractor (two speeds: tortoise and hare) and visiting the new area that had been cleared of debris and rubble to make room for some wild flora and fauna. Doesn’t a hedgehog hotel sound like the best place on Earth?

What impressed me most from my day with our Sam was the care and dedication to thinking about the families – taking care of what needed maintaining, and thinking about the future. He explained that a gardener always has to think a few seasons ahead to make sure each and every plant is the best it can be. Sam’s commitment to quality really shows in his passion and is a value that I encounter time and time again at Demelza.

I remember a very specific feeling I had during a quick coffee break in the afternoon (with Jammie Dodger, of course) and I noticed how clear my mind felt in the peace of the garden, grounded in the present with the fresh air and the birdsong. I thought to myself; "Sam might just have the best office out of all of us."

If you want to check out my impressive tractor-driving skills and Sam’s jazzy suspenders, you can watch my vlog on Facebook and Instagram!

Until next time,

Sophie