Meet the chaplain at the Lane Fox Remeo Respiratory Centre

Meet the chaplain at the Lane Fox Remeo Respiratory Centre

Ola smiling at the camera in a portrait photo.

Could you just introduce yourself and tell us a bit about your role?
Yes, good afternoon. My name is Ola David. I’m one of the East Surrey Hospital chaplains and I’ve been given the privilege to support people at the Lane Fox Remeo Respiratory Centre. I’m someone who has been employed because of my passion for people. I am very concerned when I see people, especially patients who are suffering and in pain, or staff members who are in pain. So, I support them emotionally, spiritually, culturally, and religiously where possible. 

When you say emotionally, spiritually, culturally, and religiously, what do you mean by that? What support would you give in those areas?
Let me start with the cultural aspect. For instance, many of our staff come from overseas, and even some patients. So, I have to find out what their culture is and try to meet them where they are to respond to their care or spiritual needs in a patient-centred way. For people from the Philippines, India, Africa and so on who are here living alone without support, I step in as a hospital chaplain to offer a listening ear wherever they are struggling.

Spiritually, there are many things that could relate to spirituality. For some, it’s talking about what they’re used to but disconnected from, like pets, gardening, or music — something that resonates with their wellbeing. Religiously, it may be someone who lost connection with their church, mosque community, or wants prayer. Sometimes the religious and spiritual overlap if a person’s need is met through prayer, communion, or sacred rituals. My role covers the cultural, spiritual and religious aspects to help people feel cared for.

Could you tell me about your career background? How did you end up in the NHS and then working at Remeo?
I have been a minister of religion, serving in the Pentecostal Christian setting for about 30 years. When I came to the UK around five years ago, people would call me from church to pray for them at the hospital. Seeing people suffering made me want to support them more, but with just my theological qualifications, I couldn’t serve in the NHS environment. So, I studied chaplaincy at the University of London South Bank to prepare for this work. 

After completing my placement, I was offered a role at East Surrey Hospital, and then the opportunity came to support people here at Remeo. I fell in love with serving the patients here, and the welcoming management and staff allowed me to connect with and support everyone.

What is your favourite thing about working with the patients there?
My favourite thing is that I meet people from all walks of life — military, ex-bankers, pilots, people of different races and backgrounds. It’s very interesting to me and reminds me that life circumstances can humble anyone, regardless of their former status. I also enjoy the cultural mix of colleagues from around the world. I like meeting all kinds of people.

Ola and two other people sat round a table.

What do you think the role of chaplaincy at a hospital is? How do you go about doing your role and what’s your vision?
I have seen people suffering in hospital corridors, so coming to Remeo and encountering patients dealing with breathing difficulties who cannot speak — I spend time with them and journey with them and their families through that difficult time.
I’m very free to talk to all kinds of people — families, staff, whoever. There are no barriers with me, so people can connect, and I’m able to connect with them. My vision is to make a difference by creating that time and space to be present with patients and loved ones.

You must build very strong relationships then. Is there a particular moment that stands out where you felt you really made a difference?
Yes, definitely. One person who had a difficult relationship with their family and didn’t want to open up at first because of past negative experiences. But as our relationship and trust built over time, they felt safe to finally share what they had been holding in. It stood out because it’s all about that relationship and confidentiality.

In other instances, staff members trusted me and opened up when they were struggling with loneliness and feeling isolated. I was privileged to support them through those difficulties as well. 

Is there anything else you’d like to say about your role, Remeo or the team that we haven’t covered?
I’d say that coming to Remeo, I realised the management here is very caring for their staff. They created the opportunity for me to meet with staff, allowing me to build strong relationships so they could speak up about whatever struggles they face at work or home.

It’s a great privilege and honour to be allowed to serve the patients, families, visitors and staff members in this way. My desire is to continue helping people struggling with anything to successfully come through it, because we all face struggles. 

I’m excited to have this privilege, and I’m grateful to serve by listening and supporting people’s emotional, spiritual, religious or cultural needs, whatever they may find helpful. It’s my utmost pleasure.