George's Zest Story

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.

Currently over 60 young people and their families utilise Zest’s services. From its industry unique Short Breaks, which allows young people to take time out from their daily routine, through to its parent support group and monthly X-Change evening social group for patients, Zest enables young adults with challenging conditions to fulfil their aspirations. Whether this is to manage symptoms, access opportunities in the community or reduce loneliness by enabling them to have fun with friends.

One person who uses Zest’s services is, 20-year-old, George Bellinger, from Bury St Edmunds: “My first experience of a hospice was when I started going to East Anglian Children’s Hospices’ (EACH) Treehouse in Ipswich, when I was aged six-years-old.

“We did lots of interesting things there, such as music therapy, visiting the zoo and having parties. The Treehouse was always a happy place with lots of things to do and I remember there was a lot of cake!

“When a change in protocol meant I was no longer eligible for weekend breaks at EACH, the staff tried really hard to offer other opportunities and I was able to use the Treehouse to meet up with several school friends who also had disabilities. It is hard when you are 15 and in a wheelchair – too young to go to the pub but too old for the playground. This was also at a time when I needed more help which I found very difficult to accept.

“Eventually, it did feel like I was getting too old and for a long time I was reluctant to engage with the Treehouse. The staff kept calling though and encouraged me to transition to St Elizabeth Hospice’s young adult service, Zest, and I agreed.

“I am very glad that I did. It was definitely time for me to move on to a more adult environment and I feel very lucky to be able to be part of Zest. Firstly, the facilities are really good. I am able to have a bath here, which I can’t do at home – but don’t worry I do occasionally shower at home so I am normally fairly clean!

“The staff go above and beyond to make sure I am safe and that I feel comfortable. Don’t get me wrong- it has been hard to accept this kind of help away from home, but Zest makes such a positive difference to me and my family, and it gives me lots of independence too.

“I mainly use Zest Short Breaks, and I can honestly say I have enjoyed every visit. The staff always ask me what I would like to do and my response normally includes a trip to the pub for a meal and a pint.

“Seems simple to most people, but without my parents or carer, Matt, I would worry about how I was going to get there, get into the pub, if I would be able to eat the food and be able to use the toilet. The calm and supportive Zest staff make it all as smooth as possible and if it goes wrong, we laugh about it.

“As I have got older, I understand more how much the break helps my parents and gives us a chance to spend some time apart – something most people my age take for granted.

“At Zest Short Breaks we do a range of fun things. From karaoke and trips out, such as a tractor run we visited in 2023, through to enjoying movie nights, takeaways and playing games. We even came out to support the hospice’s big fundraising event, the Midnight Walk, which was brilliant to see.

“The Zest staff are sensitive to my needs and I feel more in control of my care as they are very good at discussing difficult topics with me. Recently, I sadly lost my friend. We had gone to school and college together and we spent a few Zest weekend Short Breaks together. When he became really ill he stayed in the main hospice but the Zest staff were able to support him so that we could go out to lunch together.

“I feel the Zest staff have an amazing understanding of what I am going through and they are always upbeat and ready to have fun. I like the fact the nurses and care staff are a range of ages so we always have stuff to talk about and they are very knowledgeable about my illness.

“My parents and I really appreciate Zest Short Breaks and they know I will have a good time, eat lots and be very well looked after in the lovely warm atmosphere Zest provides which is full of laughs.”

To find out further about Zest visit

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