Since its inception in 2019, the Community Links project, funded by The National Lottery Community Fund, has created a vibrant network of organisations and community groups across the hospice’s catchment area. With the project now having over 50 Links, there is great mixture of social groups, community groups, groups supporting the homeless and vulnerably housed, and support groups, such as Holding Space, who became a Community Link in the summer of 2020.

Based in Eastbourne, Holding Space is a not-for-profit community organisation with charitable purposes that offers support to families across East Sussex who are caring for a child with a mental illness. The charity was founded by Hansa Raja-Jones in September 2019, after her own journey as a parent supporting one of her children with their mental health.

‘I found as a parent that it’s quite a lonely journey,’ she told us. ‘When you’re dealing with mental illness there’s still a massive stigma around it; you don’t know where to go for support or who to talk to. I thought we can’t be the only family going through it – there had to be other families out there feeling as lonely as we did, so let’s reach out to them.

‘We’re very unique. There isn’t another organisation like ours that covers East Sussex.’

Holding Space offers a holistic approach in that everyone within the family will be supported. There is no age limit and there does not need to be an official diagnosis of mental illness. The ethos is one of offering a safe, non-judgemental, confidential space for families to come together, connect and support one another.

Although they have had to change what they do during the pandemic, the services they offer includes counselling with a professional team of counsellors, telephone support, weekly online parent support groups and Walk and Talk sessions.

‘Walking is great for you and I find that being out in the fresh air, people tend to be more relaxed and talk more naturally. We usually have about six to eight people coming along and we walk in socially distanced pairs,’ Hansa explained.

Hansa Raja-Jones, founder of Holding Space

As well as walking and getting out into the fresh air, what else does Hansa suggest for taking care of your mental health?

‘Self-care is really important for all of us and it’s important to find what works for you. It’s good to stay connected and to reach out to people,’ she said.

‘The main thing is to just be kind to yourself. It’s okay to have bad days and days where you feel that you haven’t achieved everything. We’re all doing an amazing job living through this, so just take one day at a time.’

Hansa used to work with St Wilfrid’s many years ago when she worked as a Macmillan Lead Cancer Nurse, so is very excited to be part of the Community Links project.

‘Life is all about collaboration. We’re all trying to achieve the same thing by supporting the community, just in different ways, and the more we can work together we can achieve so much more.

‘By sharing each other’s work and projects, it reaches a wider audience and people can get the support they need.’

If you would like further information about Holding Space, visit their website here.

If your group or organisation would be interested in finding out more about the Community Links project please contact Lucy Cheshire at [email protected]. You can also visit the Community Links page on our website.

Please note: St Wilfrid’s Hospice (Eastbourne) Ltd is keen to promote community links with other organisations and community groups and whilst the links on this page will take you to their respective websites, St Wilfrid’s Hospice (Eastbourne) Ltd is not responsible for the content of their websites or the practices of these groups/organisations. All other websites should have their own privacy notice/policy, and you are advised to refer to those accordingly.