Helen’s story

Guest Engagement Manager, Helen, talks about what's involved in organising all the activities, entertainment and outings Leuchie offers to give guests a great holiday experience.

When did you join the Leuchie team and what were your first impressions

When I started working as Guest Engagement Manager at Leuchie House in August 2017, I was immediately blown away by the wonderful care and compassion shown by staff and volunteers to our guests. From a simple wander through the house, you can see how evident and deeply rooted this is.

What is the focus of Leuchie’s guest engagement programme?

At Leuchie we offer a varied programme of in-house activities, therapies and outings to give our guests a full holiday experience.  This is delivered by me and our team of three guest engagement assistants, with the support of other colleagues and volunteers. Our aim is to create long lasting memories and ensure all our guests feel the benefits of their break, long after leaving Leuchie House. 

The social side of Leuchie is something which is hugely anticipated by returning Leuchie guests.  Making friends, comparing life stories, finding things in common and having a laugh are all things which guests often tell me are so important about their time on holiday here.

Many of our guests have very isolated lives, with rigorous and dictated routines. It is the vision of our department to give them back as much choice as possible.

How do you decide what activities to offer?

Every year, my colleagues and I get together and decide on the themes of all our Leuchie breaks.  We look at what was most popular the previous year, and what guests most enjoyed.  These themes then give me a starting point to plan the year ahead.

For example, as I’m writing this, our theme is Best of Scotland.  To prepare for this break, I contacted local musicians to come in and play traditional Scottish tunes, and booked in the piper and speaker for our highly anticipated Burns Supper. I also spent time brainstorming new activities with my team, which led to us adding Celtic jewellery making and a Scottish produce tasting afternoon to our programme.  We are also reminded not to forget the favourite activities that our guests enjoy time and time again like our version of Desert Island Discs or our pub quiz.  We do everything we can to make our activities adaptable to suit any ability, so that everyone can take part if they’d like to. Once the programme is decided I shop for any supplies we need and do some research to help the team prepare.

Within this process we have a meeting called Triage with fellow departments, which happens before each group of guests arrive. This gives me the chance to find out about the guests coming on our next break, the range of abilities, and any special requests people have made.  We try wherever we can to make most things happen for our guests, when they want to go to a particular place or try specific activities. Where that’s not possible for medical or other reasons, we’ll always do our best to find a compromise or offer an alternative option.

Tell us about the outings you organise for guests

As well as in-house activities, my team and I organise outings for our guests – over 800 in 2018!  These trips mean a lot to many of our guests, for whom even simple things, like going shopping to M&S or going to the cinema, can be impossible to arrange at home. 

At the start of their break, I ask each guest where they’d like to go, giving them options for group trips. Often guests have a specific outing in mind, and we can try and facilitate that, keeping in mind guests’ medical needs.  The things guests enjoy doing range from trips in the Leuchie minibus along the East Lothian coastline, or going out for a pub lunch, to bigger adventures like a microlight flight, or a trip to the Edinburgh Tattoo. 

What about therapies and beauty treatments?

At the start of their break we also give guests the chance to book in for one of our range or complementary therapies and beauty treatments.  We offer reflexology, podiatry, massage therapy, reiki, mindfulness, counselling, hairdressing and beauty treatments, all of which are very popular with our guests.

Do guests have to get involved in everything that’s going on?

Being able to offer all of these things, means there is a real variety every day, with a chance to get out and about, as well as enjoy our wonderful house. With all this in mind, often a guest may just want to relax and take it easy, enjoying the peace and tranquillity of our summer house during the warmer months, or relaxing in their bedroom watching some of the hundreds of DVDs we have on offer. This is completely up to each individual guest, and you can do as little or as much as you like in the Leuchie world. 

What do you get out of working at Leuchie?

All of this makes for a busy guest engagement department, but one that is so rewarding to head up.  Being out on a trip with a guest and seeing what a difference some sea air can make, or hearing about how much better a guest feels after a mindfulness session, or simply being around a group of guests when they are roaring with laughter, makes for a very special job - and one that is truly the best job I’ve ever had.