Gardening has helped a resilient hospice volunteer blossom.

Soo Venour has been a gardening volunteer at Isabel Hospice for four years, working alongside fellow volunteers to maintain tranquil green spaces, where patients can escape from the stresses of their illness and find solace in the beauty of nature.

In volunteering, Soo has found community, friendship and a sense of accomplishment, but her journey to becoming a volunteer was a challenging one.

Having been around cancer her entire adult life, Soo witnessed her first cancer-related death at just 17-years-old while working as a nurse in a hospice.

Welwyn Hatfield Times: Soo Venour and fellow Isabel Hospice gardening volunteers.Soo Venour and fellow Isabel Hospice gardening volunteers. (Image: Isabel Hospice)




Since then, she has lost her father to cancer, has battled cancer herself, and spent three years as the primary caregiver to her father-in-law.

“After we lost my father-in-law, I did an RHS gardening course at Capel Manor,” said Soo.

“I was looking for ways to get back out into the community. It is quite testing to care for somebody 24 hours a day for a long period of time, so I was a little bit fragile myself after that, and I needed to do something just for me.”

Prompted by witnessing the excellent hospice care received by a friend, Soo then set about calling Isabel Hospice to see if there were any volunteering opportunities available.

When she was informed about volunteering opportunities in the gardens it seemed like a natural fit.

“I think outside space is very important when you’re unwell,” she said. “Seeing all the new growth this time of year certainly gives me a bit of hope for the future. Seeing the first blossom open really lifted me.”

Creating the beautiful gardens at the Welwyn Garden City-based charity’s Living Well with Isabel community hub in Hall Grove has had a positive impact, not only on those who the Hospice cares for, but also on Soo herself.

“Volunteering gave me a way of meeting like-minded people who are interested in similar things to me, and who have possibly been through some of the things that I’ve been through over the last few years,” she said.

“So it gives you people to talk with as well as you giving something back. You’re gaining something from it.”

Soo’s favourite part of the Hospice gardens are the tall, verdant trees.

“There is a beautiful Acer and there’s always a lot of birds, which is lovely to be around,” she said.

But she has bigger dreams for the Hospice gardens. “It would be lovely to have a garden room, out there where patients could go out and do counselling, or just sit quietly outside.

"We could have a greenhouse, so that people could go out during wet weather in the winter. There’s a lot of scope for changing things. But that depends on fundraising.”

Soo would recommend volunteering at Isabel Hospice to anyone. “I’ve always had support, not just from the people involved with the volunteering, but also from the staff,” she said.

“They’re always ready with a cup of tea, they’re always ready to have a chat, and they always say thank you.

"They make it very obvious that it’s appreciated that you give your time, and that’s always a nice thing, to be appreciated anywhere in life.

"It’s a pleasure to do, it makes you feel better about yourself if nothing else.”

There are more volunteering options at Isabel Hospice than you may think. If you have a few hours to spare, pop along to the Hospice’s next Volunteer Information Session on Thursday, April 27 and find out how your skills and expertise could help deliver its plans for 2023.

For full details, visit or call Caroline Baynes on 01707 382500.


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