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Meet Shiatsu Volunteer – Tanya

Tanya joined Helen & Douglas House as a volunteer in 2014 as a Shiatsu therapist for parents or grandparents of local terminally ill children who are cared for by the hospice in Oxford.

Tanya is a public health nutritionist and a director of a small Oxford-based charity called the Emergency Nutrition Network supporting national governments, UN agencies and non-governmental agencies, and worked extensively in Asia and Africa before settling in Oxford 9 years ago and is also a Shiatsu practioner.

Shiatsu is type of energy-based bodywork which uses body weight and touch to stimulate the body’s own self-healing. Its roots are in Japan and in traditional Chinese Medicine and it can treat a range of musculo-skeletal and stress-related problems, maintain good health and prevent health problems from arising. It is also deeply relaxing. As part of her three-year training in 2012, she started coming to the hospice to carry out Shiatsu sessions for parents and members of the Helen & Douglas House team.

Tanya said ‘One of my Shiatsu teachers suggested I look and see if there were any local opportunities to volunteer somewhere where Shiatsu would be beneficial and I immediately thought of Helen & Douglas House. I knew of the hospice, about the wonderful work it did and it’s history, which my Mum, a retired nurse and bereavement counsellor had told me about.

‘I am a qualified Shiatsu practitioner, but often I think that my most important skill is simply being able to give a window of time and space to the parents or grandparents of children visiting the hospice and simply listen to them.

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‘I have learnt that people can cope with situations that to me seem impossible to manage but that there can be so many hidden (sometimes not too hidden) costs physically and mentally to that. It has been a constantly humbling thing to have contact with these families and been welcomed into their confidence and trust. I have met people from such different backgrounds to me, heard about such different experiences to mine.’

‘Every session that I have shared at the hospice has been a memorable experience. Seeing a parent or grandparent walk away from the session with a more fluid step, breathing slightly more deeply or with less tension in their face is an absolute gift to me.

‘The art room at Helen & Douglas House is such a treasure trove and I love to see the art that comes out of it. Helen & Douglas House was not what I expected at all with the music and art areas and sounds of chatter and laughter. It felt more to me like walking into a fun activity camp than a hospice. Before I went there I had a vision of the hospice as a place offering care and comfort. I didn’t think of it as a place that created joy, but that is what I feel at Helen & Douglas House.

‘Helen & Douglas House is a very special place that is a little hard to explain if you have not been there. But that when you go, you don’t really want to leave, which sounds weird because before I went I thought it would be a difficult place to be. I have not found that at all, even in times where there is a lot of sadness, because such a haven has been created in every way – including the beautiful gardens and the greeting as soon as you step into the reception area.

‘Kate who manages the volunteers is one of the most incredible people I have ever met. Her capacity to take care of people seems to be infinite and I have always felt incredibly supported and appreciated as a volunteer by her and by the whole team. And there is so much fun stuff! Being able to share a lunch, the raffles, the shows, the cakes, make being a Helen & Douglas House volunteer a joyful part of your life. It provides an atmosphere of open-armed kindness and fun created by an amazing team.’

If you would like to know more about Tanya’s Shiatsu practice you can do so here.


Can you help? We are extremely short of volunteers in our charity shops!

We are looking for shop volunteers too so pop into your local charity shop or take a look online to find out more about the great opportunities we may have.


Offices & support services volunteering

Our hospice volunteers help with everything from housekeeping, catering, and reception to giving a helping hand to our estates team.


Family facing volunteering

Help a local family the hospice cares for by becoming a Home Support Volunteer. Help with housework, cleaning, ironing, and shopping or gardening.


Fundraising & events volunteering

Come and join in at our events! Meet our supporters and some of the hospice families, represent the charity and have lots of fun in the process.