‘The more you give, the better it is for you. You know the reward is greater than the effort’: the Compassionate Communities Connectors’ experience

Samar M. Aoun, Robyn Richmond, Kerrie Noonan, Kerry Gunton, Bruce Rumbold

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: The Compassionate Communities Connectors programme is a volunteer-led initiative designed to enhance the social networks of families living with chronic or life-limiting illnesses. Specially trained volunteers supported existing members of the families’ social networks and also enlisted the support of community members, Caring Helpers, to address the social and practical needs of these families. The programme is an initiative of The South West Compassionate Communities Network in Western Australia, in partnership with the health service. Objective: To explore the experiences and views of Connectors implementing this model of care with a particular focus on its feasibility and acceptability from their perspective. Methods: Semi-structured telephone interviews were undertaken with 11 Connectors covering their experience with 37 patients/family carers (March 2021 to April 2022). A deductive content analysis was used in analysing interview transcripts. Results: Six themes captured the Connectors’ view of their role and its impact on their clients and themselves: Mutual benefits from connection and reciprocity; It is ok to ask for and receive help; Sense of community as being ‘part of a village’; Making a difference in social connectedness; Frustrations when not achieving everything you want to; Reflecting on the difference with traditional volunteering. These themes are complemented by a social network mapping example and a vignette demonstrating the increase both in connections and interaction between these connections and the process by which such changes took place. Conclusion: Volunteering as a Connector has been a positive and feasible experience for fostering a sense of community among participants, developing relationships with other community members, seeing the difference that the Connector role makes in the lives of those involved in the enhanced network and fostering growth in Connectors’ emotional capacity and compassion. The work is challenging but rewarding and differs in several respects from traditional volunteering, particularly in the agency Connectors can bring to their role. A public health approach based on a close partnership between health services and communities/civic institutions is the optimal practice model.

Original languageEnglish
JournalPalliative Care and Social Practice
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2022


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