Work in their Shoes with Vin - Garden

08 August 2019

work in their shoes logo 2019

August 2019
Our Deputy Chief Executive, Lavinia, spends a Work in their Shoes day with our Gardening Team.


I introduced this scheme to Demelza many years ago. It was originally called “Walk in Their Shoes” but we found people were only seeing certain elements of the role and weren't experiencing a 'real' day's work with each department. I love Work in Their Shoes and have learnt so much from doing it myself.

There numerous aims for the scheme :-

  • Increase understanding of other colleagues roles and where their challenges lie, to improve team working
  • Increase understanding of the perspective of each team and generate better communications
  • Learn more about the work of Demelza as a whole
  • Increase engagement and motivate us by seeing for ourselves the difference we can make!

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I have worked in the garden at Kent. OK it was a hot August day (as opposed to the cold drizzle of November!) and I worked with a corporate group of around 30 carrying and placing heavy boulders in the sensory garden. It was hot, heavy and exhausting work but I was inspired by that corporate team who thought we were amazing for letting them come and get out of their stuffy offices and do something for the children.  They worked tirelessly all day and were pleased with what they achieved.

I learnt the importance of great stewardship from our corporate team, I learnt the importance of good planning from our gardening team, I learnt that 6.5 acres is in fact an enormous challenge and an army of volunteers wouldn’t keep it perfect. I was able to pass on to the gardening team an email from a parent who explained why they love to visit the site, long after their daughter passed away and think of her in the Garden of Tranquility. It also confirmed what I already knew - “gardening” is jolly hard work and the Demelza site looks fantastic! 

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I have worked a night shift in the Kent care team. I was terribly nervous that I might not stay awake or I might feel unwell. I did stay awake and I did feel unwell – it's amazing the impact that just one changed sleep pattern can have on your body. We need to consider that for our care team colleagues. However, I had the most amazing insight into the extent of the work involved.

We had a child with a complex seizure protocol (the steps you have to take if the seizure develops and/or doesn’t stop). Mum and Dad had left their precious little person with us for the first time to go to the cinema, the first time since he had been born…….he was 4 years old. If seizures got to a certain level of the protocol, Mum wanted to be contacted so she could come back if needed. I felt the pressure but all those around me were calm. I was never alone with the child but I was asked to record times and duration so that the notes could be accurately updated.  This is when I remembered ……nursing was never for me!! Of course those records would have been taken without me there and someone had a careful eye on me, but it really brought it home to me the level of responsibility our care team hold.

There were 4 other children on site that night. One had difficulty settling with her distressing symptoms. I was so humbled by the lengths that the team went to try to offer some comfort and relief. She did settle at around 2am – that’s the norm for that little one, and her family.

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The one that has stayed with me was a home visit with our SEL Care Team. With Mum’s permission I was allowed to go on a first visit. From the primary diagnosis alone it was clear that the child would definitely meet our admission criteria. It was such a privilege to be there. The Mum didn’t want pity, she wanted practical help, and fast.  She was socially isolated from her family and friends. She lived in a beautifully kept maisonette that she couldn’t get her child in or out of due to the steps and her child’s prolonged seizures. She couldn’t use public transport and had spent the previous 10 months in King's College Hospital. The child had a central line making bathing problematic and she wanted support to be confident to do that.

I found myself talking about acrylic nails and Justin Bieber in a conversation lead by Mum who said she stared for hours at CBeebies before she realised that her child was sleeping. I am hoping I was slightly more entertaining, although the extent of my knowledge on acrylic nails and Justin Bieber is somewhat limited! She asked what the hospice looked like, and would she be able to talk to other Mums. Could we help her get there and could she stay for a day to see if she liked it. I have worked at Demelza for twenty years and I have never been prouder to say that Mum and Son are regular attenders at the Eltham hospice where they have met new friends and have been given tremendous professional support.

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I am working with Kent Housekeeping next month, with another stint in the garden planned for September and 2 half days with our fantastic Income Generation team.

Where will your Work in Their Shoes be?