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 Susan Simpson, who are passionate about helping young adults live their lives to the full.
Working as a Senior Care Assistant at East Anglia’s Children’s Hospice (EACH), Susan was no stranger to St Elizabeth Hospice’s Zest programme and the importance of supporting young adults as they transition from children’s hospice care to adult care.
So in 2020, when the opportunity arose to work for both charities and support patients and their families throughout their transition to Zest, Susan had no hesitation in taking on the new role.
“I worked many years at EACH before Zest was established,” explained Susan.
“Before Zest, I worked closely with families whose children came to the age when they could no longer be cared for by EACH but they had no other service available for them and left us with no support.
“That’s why Zest is so vital, as it fills a service gap, supporting a generation of young people and their families who previously would be left to care for themselves. Knowing Zest is such an important service, is a big motivation for me on a daily basis.”
As well as being driven by her passion to help others Susan, who lives in Felixstowe with her husband Martin, has a personal connection St Elizabeth Hospice.
“My mum passed away at the hospice in 2013 and she always said to me ‘Whenever I walk through these doors I feel like I’m receiving a hug and so cared for’, that has stayed with me and I would love that feeling to carry on to others,” she added.
“Zest gives remarkable young people the opportunity to be young people, by enabling them to socialise, have fun, have sleepovers and do things they would not be able to experience anywhere else due to the conditions and disabilities they are living with.
“A Zest memory that stands out for me was during one of my shifts, two young adults were playing a game. They sat together and one boy, who is unable to use his hands, chose the car colour and track, while the other lad raced the cars. They chatted and laughed during the game and it was so nice to see them getting along and helping each other.
“By supporting Zest the community is helping so many people enjoy the quality of life they deserve. Working at EACH, I understand how important Zest is to our young adults and their families and I can see the difference the service has made to them and their lives, and I am so proud to be a part of it.
“A parent once told me how lovely it was for their son to have a safe space to meet other young people, when previously he was unable to do so, and it made a big difference to him and his happiness. That is what Zest is about, its holistic care for young people through both medical care and fun experiences which give them confidence and independence.
“Through supporting Zest you are helping so many remarkable young people and their families to enjoy life and live it to the full when it matters most.”
To find out further about Zest visit www.stelizabethhospice.org.uk/about-us/about-us/zest.