Established by St Elizabeth Hospice in 2015, Zest is a scheme which sees the independent Suffolk charity work closely with children’s hospices to ensure young adults have a smooth transition into adult care.
Supporting young adults aged 14 and upwards with progressive and life-limiting illnesses, Zest ensures all the young people, under its care, receive specialist support, tailored treatment and services needed to be able to enjoy life to the full.
Behind the continued success and evolution of Zest are the staff, such as Jo Shaw, who are passionate about helping young adults live their lives to the full.
“The Zest team’s motivation comes from the young adults and their parents and our determination to support them wherever and whenever we can,” explained Jo.
“I am in awe of the parents and families who use Zest, as they are so positive and dedicated. I get so much enjoyment from making sure the young adults and their families have great times.
“Coming to work is genuinely such fun as you are seeing your mates, as all the young adults are, and they all have such great personalities that you can’t help but be inspired and feel happy around them.”
Born in Hertfordshire, after training in Aberdeen, Jo qualified as a general nurse before specialising in oncology while working for a number of hospitals across the country. However, in 2011 she joined St Elizabeth Hospice as a bank nurse supporting the hospice’s day services and inpatient unit.
She said: “I always wanted to work for St Elizabeth Hospice and through working in cancer care I was very aware of the importance of hospices and I have also had a few friends who have passed away at the hospice, so to have the opportunity to join was very special to me.
“As opposed to larger hospitals I have worked in, the hospice and Zest are much smaller environments so you get to know everyone better in a closer knit team. This means you get to see and learn how passionate people are about their work, with it being a charity its clear they go the extra mile and work their hardest all the time.
“I also found hospice care was not what I imagined it to be. It’s not always about death and dying, people come here for holidays and to live life to the full.”
As well as supporting adults under the hospice’s care, Jo became a familiar face to many of the Zest young adults who would use St Elizabeth Hospice’s day care services before she eventually joined the Zest team full-time in 2018.
“Working with the young adults is just brilliant and in fact my daughter Abbie has begun working with one of our young adults in the community after hearing me talk so enthusiastically about how much I enjoy my role,” added Jo.
“Being around these remarkable people is so inspiring and to have their trust is such as privilege. They are our complete focus, as we ensure both they and their families achieve their goals, whether that is a few days to relax, to play games, to socialise or just have fun.
“By supporting Zest, people are making a huge difference to the services we can provide. Whether that is a new sensory room, funds for days out, cooking activities and provision of specialist extra equipment.
“Every penny counts and allows us, as a charity, to help these young adults and their families to enjoy life as much as possible.”
To find out further about Zest visit www.stelizabethhospice.org.uk/about-us/about-us/zest.