On Saturday 1st June 1991, Daphne Sowerby was celebrating her 40th wedding anniversary. Just one week later she was grieving the loss of her much loved husband, Albert.
As a result of Albert’s loss, Daphne’s 26 year relationship with Arohanui Hospice began. Her relationship began like so many others with a loved one being referred into the care of Arohanui Hospice. It was this care during some of the darkest times in Daphne’s life that left her feeling she wanted to do all she could so that others could experience the positive and caring experience she and her family had had. Daphne will never forget how caring and gentle the team from Arohanui Hospice were. She often walked in to find staff just sitting with her husband holding his hand and comforting him. She says, “It was a blessing and so comforting knowing how well looked after he was”, especially when the family weren’t present. Daphne found that “Knowing how well he was cared for made such a difference”, and feels that Hospice staff are handpicked to be there for patients and their families.
Losing her husband of 40 years left a big gap in Daphne’s life. “I didn’t know anything about Hospice before he went there. It was so wonderful for him and the family, and I decided that doing something for Arohanui Hospice was what I wanted to do to fill in my time.” Daphne’s husband was one the first patients of Arohanui Hospice, and after experiencing Hospice care, she wanted to make sure she helped others experience the same amazing quality of care Albert had received.
It just so happened that the Hospice was looking for volunteers at the time, especially for people to help with fundraising. Daphne volunteered her services and set a goal that she would fundraise $100,000 for Arohanui Hospice. So Daphne and her daughter decided to test the waters and hold an afternoon tea at her home. “We put on afternoon tea for free and sold a few crafts, a bit of cooking and odds and ends. We raised $200. The following year we raised $400, and the next $600.” As the years went on, the kitchen table became too small and they moved to her daughter Aileen’s house, where they could accommodate more people, and then stayed there for the next 17 years. During the last few years, Daphne’s annual sale has moved to Activate Church in Feilding who give her the use of the building free-of-charge for this popular event. This has meant they can now have a bigger sale and can set-up the night before.
During this time, Daphne was also speaking to groups and would take various items to sell with her, which along with her annual sale helped her earn approximately $5,000 per year! She has also organised many events, including garden visits, museum visits, mystery drives, guest speakers and afternoon teas.
Daphne’s biggest one-off venture was a concert at her local church. She organised 12 entertainers and gave a free supper, charging just $12 per ticket. The event was a massive success, and brought in over $7000!
In 2013 Daphne’s commitment to Arohanui Hospice and her local community earnt her a Community Honours award from the Manawatu District Council. She is also a strong supporter of her church, Feilding Activate Church, and for many years delivered Meals on Wheels.
Daphne has been tireless in her efforts and never wavered on her goal, despite battling ill health in recent years. In 2017 her goal was achieved, and she surpassed the $100,000 mark for Arohanui Hospice. She has worked quietly without seeking any publicity and is quick to point out she would not have achieved her goal without the help of the many businesses that have donated goods, and the people who helped her with her sales by making goods or giving time, even though a lot were people in their 80s and 90s. Daphne often offered to pay for items they needed to make the goods, but this offer was usually turned down, as those involved said it was their chance to give to Arohanui Hospice. Daphne says of those who have helped her, “They’re all part of it and without them I wouldn’t have made it to $100,000 raised. They’re very hard workers, reliable and willing and all want to give back to Arohanui Hospice”
Daphne Sowerby’s contribution is simply astonishing, and individuals like her enrich our community, and give us faith in humanity. Her commitment to helping others in their greatest time of need for the past 25 years is truly amazing, and Arohanui Hospice is blessed by having the support of incredible people like Daphne Sowerby.
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