A local entrepreneur has given his backing to new Fair Havens Hospice in Southend after personal experience cemented his support for the charity.
Paul Althasen, 54, is a high-profile figure in the telecoms industry and has now branched out into other business areas such as financial processing, property and insurance. Although Paul now mostly lives in London, he was born and raised in Thorpe Bay, his family still live in the town and many of his companies are still based in the area.
The Old Westcliffian says he’s been a ‘casual supporter’ of Havens Hospices for a long time, having attended many events over the years but had never had direct contact with the charity. This all changed a few years ago when he was approached to discuss the idea of a new Fair Havens Hospice.
“Havens Hospices wanted to set up an Appeal Board to get the fundraising for a new adult facility off the ground. They talked about the rationale behind the project and the challenges of the existing premises in Chalkwell Avenue. Although my knowledge of hospice care at this time was limited, I genuinely thought it was a worthwhile scheme to get involved with and channel my resources in to.”
The new Fair Havens Hospice will be based in Prittlewell and will care for twice as many patients as the current hospice can. Although the number of beds will increase from 10 to 16, the building will also have a larger Day Hospice and Wellbeing services.
“Although I support other charitable organisations, Southend has been good to me – I was educated here, my family raised me here and my businesses are mainly run from here. I felt it was a good opportunity to contribute towards the community that nurtured me.”
The involvement Paul has had so far has been invaluable. As well as a commitment of a substantial donation, he has been giving the charity a professional opinion on some elements of the construction.
“I do appreciate architecture – and this project did appeal to me architecturally – I knew I could add value in terms of advising the charity about value for money and put them in touch with cost consultants which ultimately made a substantial difference. Even the smallest tweaks to a building can save a lot of construction costs and it’s been good to see the current designs become much more deliverable.”
Paul has also been putting the charity in touch with friends and business associates to gather their support, both Southend-based and further afield. Several charitable foundations have also expressed interest in becoming involved thanks to Paul’s intervention.
When Paul agreed to become a Board Member he’d had no direct experience of hospice care - this all changed in June 2016.
“My father, Gerry, had a condition called Multiple System Atrophy (MSA) which is a debilitating neurological condition which affects the nerve cells in the brain.
“He was initially taken to Fair Havens to give my mother some respite, as she was his primary carer. He became very poorly and ended up spending his final days at the hospice on Chalkwell Avenue.
“We have a big family and we all descended upon Fair Havens and they allowed this and gave us space. Even after he died, we spent time with him and said our goodbyes. Everyone there was very caring and sympathetic and they actually took away the fear, showing us that death wasn’t something to be afraid of. It is a part of life and my father was made as comfortable as possible. The Care Team made that sad but inevitable process as bearable as it can be.
“Their compassion and support extended to the family too including my children. My son, who was 12 at the time, had never experienced the death of a loved one, but he was able to say goodbye and felt comfortable doing so thanks to Fair Havens.”
Paul now wants to see other local businesses and organisations pledge their support to the new Fair Havens Hospice as it strives to raise the remaining money needed – which is now less than £1 million to reach the £2.5 million target to complete the building.
“I would say if this town has been good to you, give something back to your local community. This is a cause that none of us want to use, but any of us could find ourselves in the situation needing to call on hospice care. Without the support of local people, we simply would not have this type of care to give our loved ones the dignity they deserve.
“As far as local charitable projects are concerned, this is probably the most significant we, as a town, have experienced in a long time. Over the coming years, the new Fair Havens Hospice will impact on thousands of people’s lives, and that is something to be heralded and given our full support.”
A new Fair Havens will give people in South East Essex a new, modern hospice to turn to when they are facing an illness that cannot be cured and from which they are likely to die.
It’ll provide support for people at all stages of their journey - inside the hospice, within the community or their own home - and care for their family and friends making this journey with them. It will incorporate 16 in-patient bedrooms, increased Day Hospice services, additional family support and beautifully landscaped gardens and grounds.
To find out how your support – no matter what the size – can make a difference to the new Fair Havens Hospice, please click here.