Our visit to Francis House

Interlink Recruitment24 April 2018

As fundraisers, we went along to the Francis House Children’s Hospice Open Day to see the facilities and learn more about how the money we raise helps to support so many families across Manchester.

Our ‘tour guide’ was Helena, a member of the staff care team, who gave us an insightful look around both Francis House and the new Francis Lodge building, talking us through how rooms and equipment are used by families as well as the ideas behind their design and how equipment on-site really helps to make a difference to those who use the facility.

The house and the lodge
Francis House, now in its twenty-seventh year, provides support for families of children with terminal and life limiting illnesses, giving them a place to come and stay, play, relax and create lasting memories.  From under 5’s to over 18’s benefitting from the facility, it’s a place for the whole family to enjoy, siblings and parents alike.  Meanwhile the new Francis Lodge building, officially opened by the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge in 2016, and which is now attached to the main Francis House building, is a spacious facility for teenagers and young adults requiring respite care who may not necessarily want their parents with them throughout their stay and seek a more independent experience. 

An oasis of calm
What’s immediate when you walk into the grounds of Francis House, despite it being close to a busy main road, is how peaceful it is.  The buildings are centred around landscaped gardens so that residents, whether parents of children in respite care, or the children themselves can overlook the scenery and take the time to relax.  Within Francis Lodge, where many of the residents are wheelchair bound, thought has been taken into the design of the windows to allow residents a full view from wheelchair level.  A lot of input has gone into the design of rooms and areas, by parents and the residents themselves, to further improve the experience of time spent at Francis House.

The rainbow connection
You will see on the Francis House logo, the prominence of the rainbow, which is echoed beautifully across the Francis House building.  As the Chaplin told us when we entered the on-site chapel, where a stunning stained-glass window with a rainbow running through it features; the rainbow is a symbol that transcends religions, symbolic of God’s love, care, support and protection – and of course, light can always be found at the end of the rainbow.
The seven bedrooms available for children and young adults with life threatening conditions to stay overnight in at Francis House are each designed to match a colour within the rainbow and at the end of the seven rooms is a ‘pot of gold’ room for very active children for whom a 100% safe environment is paramount.  The rainbow rooms themselves are beautiful, peaceful spaces where parents can say their final goodbyes to their children, once the young lives come to an end.

Special people help make a special place
Francis House has everything from a technology room to craft room, with a brand-new snooze room complete with state-of-the-art sensory aids, as well as a jacuzzi room, big enough for the whole family to enjoy, and a music room for letting off steam.  Over on the Lodge side there is a modern kitchen, cinema room and a spacious environment to allow beds and wheelchairs to be moved around.  While donations to the facility help to buy much-needed equipment, they also go towards keeping the building and its contents to a high standard, and even more importantly funds the frontline care team.  Without staff to care for those residing at Francis House, overnight stays must be reduced, and other activities cut short.  Volunteers, as much as the staff themselves are vital to the everyday upkeep of Francis House.  Last year, over eighty-seven volunteers helped Francis House save £120,000 in running costs.  If, for example, there are no volunteers to help with mealtimes, the care team must get involved, which of course takes them away from their time spent with the young residents.

Did you know?
Francis house is quite unique in that it’s the only hospice in the country for children that doesn’t discharge young patients once they reach adult age.  With the improvement of medicine over the years, those youngsters who were diagnosed with a terminal or life limiting illness as a child, can live longer and make it to adulthood and currently using Francis House are approximately twenty-seven young adults aged over twenty-five, with a handful over the age of thirty, all of who have visited Francis House since childhood.  

Nothing but love for Francis House
Whatever your perceptions of a hospice are, you can forget them all once you have entered Francis House – it is such a lovely place.  As Bethany Johnson, our Office Manager who came to the Open Day explains, “Visiting Francis House was a fantastic opportunity and I feel very honoured to be invited to see the grounds.  It was great being able to see where all our fundraising goes.  They have so many amazing rooms designed to help children with life limiting/threatening illnesses and give their parents and siblings a well needed break and support.  Francis House is a home from home for those who spend their time here and I have to say, during my visit it did not feel like a hospice at all.”
And Helena reinforced that as she talked to us about her time spent working at Francis House – it was clear to see her love for her job and the fact she, as is everyone who works there, is so proud of the place.  And what she said to us on our visit, certainly rings true, “You can’t change the situation these families are in but you can make it better, by holding their hand through a very difficult time and creating everlasting happy memories.”

Visiting Francis House has certainly spurred us on with our fundraising as we hope to bring colour to the lives of those children and young adults who frequent the facility.  Please keep donating to our page, especially as our team continue with their personal challenges to raise money.  Sophie will be running the Manchester half marathon on 20th May, with Jessica running the 10km on the same day, to raise money for Francis House.  And in June, a team from Interlink Recruitment, some with the support of their family members will be taking on the 3 Peaks Challenge.
Look out for more details of our fundraising on our
Twitter and Facebook page, as well as our Instagram.  Or, if you too feel inspired by our visit to Francis House – please visit our JustGiving page to make a donation and help hundreds of families across Manchester as they go through the toughest of times. 

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