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Hercules is a delightful Alpaca with a gentle personality. His owner Nils brings him to Covenant Care in the back seat of his car.

Covenant Care is a day respite centre for people living at home with a life-limiting illness, who are being cared for in the home by a family member. By attending the program the carer can have a break from caring for a day, knowing their family member is in good care, being looked after by a dedicated team of volunteers and a registered nurse. 

The program operates out of Holy Covenant Church in Jamison one day a week from 9.30-4pm. Where possible we pick up the clients and take them home after the day is finished. The day offers a ‘day with a difference’ for our clients and their carer who can either stay home for the day or meet friends for lunch or coffee and do just what they want to do with their free day. The main meal for the day for our clients is a two course meal provided free of charge by the Southern Cross Club in Jamison, a very generous gift to the clients. This generosity spills over to the carers also because it means for one day in the week they don’t have to cook a main meal.

The client’s day with a difference might look like this though it varies week by week: Arrivals start from 9.30 onwards and are settled in by the wonderful volunteers where they are made comfortable and offered morning tea, which can sometimes be home baked on the premises. Entertainment follows and that might be the Spanish Dancers, the Canberra lace makers, a historical talk from a volunteer at the National War Memorial, a choir singing, to name just a few. Such experiences are no longer possible for many of our clients living in the community and that is our aim when we consider our planning of the activities. 

On this particular day it was a visit from Hercules the Alpaca and his owner. Hercules came into the centre and Nils his owner took him gently to meet the clients one by one where they offered him sultanas as a treat. It was lovely to be able to take a photo of Hercules with each client and for them to be able to take that photo home as a memory and to show the family and friends what a day with a difference can be like. 

Throughout the day the clients are attended by the registered nurse and spoilt by volunteers with hand and foot massages, nail manicures (for the ladies), Quizzes are played, jigsaw puzzles done, and someone is on hand offering assistance with family history research and mapping out their family tree. Counselling, sitting Thai Chi and a prayer  services are also available. The program also offers end-of-life support, memorial services and funerals.

Covenant Care is the only day hospice in Canberra and is a part of the larger Holistic Care Nursing Ministry at Holy Covenant. Currently there are 16 clients in Covenant Care in various stages of their illness. What a wonderful use of the church space. Church on Sunday, a day hospice on Monday and booked for other programs throughout the week. This year will mark a milestone as Covenant care enters its eighth year of operation. 

A bit more about Hercules and his owner Nils. 

Nils tells me that he and Hercules visit and support people who have thoughts of suicide and who have perhaps attempted suicide. They also visit the Hospice here in Canberra. Nils tells me that Hercules brings joy and a life-saving element into their lives. 

Often I think people like Nils with Hercules are the unsung heroes in our community, bringing joy and hope amongst some of the most needy and isolated in our communities.

by The Venerable Anne Ranse 
(Archdeacon Emeritus) OAM