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Registered Charity Number 1156595
The Hummingbird Centre
Grange Courtyard
Station Road


OX26 5DX
01869 244 244
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January 2018

Mechelle is the Founder and Manager of the Hummingbird Centre, a cancer support and therapy centre in Launton.
Article: © John West (The Web Guy) |
CSIC, Mewburn Road, Banbury, OX16 9PA


Mechelle Harris – Founder and Manager of the Hummingbird Centre, a cancer support and therapy centre in Launton, nr Bicester.

The Hummingbird Centre is a cancer support and therapy centre where those affected by cancer can go to receive kindness and understanding and to realise that they are not alone. I visited the centre in late 2017 to find out more. Whilst there, many of the 'guests' I spoke to mentioned a wonderful feeling that they had felt as soon as they had walked in through the door of the centre. Mechelle, the founder and manager, suggested that this feeling may be coming from the structure of the building itself. For me, I don't think that this feeling is coming from the building bricks - I think it's coming from Mechelle and the other volunteers themselves. I've also got a good idea what the feeling is. It's love. It's the unconditional love and support for each other delivered by Mechelle, the amazing volunteers and by the guests themselves.

Mechelle grew up in Leicestershire and when not in school spent her time reading and helping her granddad on his allotment growing flowers. In school, whilst doing her GCSE's, she had hopes of becoming a teacher, but on leaving school was distracted by a job ad in the paper to work as a receptionist in the Chamber Of Commerce. The interview was daunting and she was surprised to be offered the job as she couldn't type and it was the first job that she had applied for. After making sure that the interview panel had got the right person, she started work. She was there for 10 years! It was great experience and she learnt much about clerical work and administration. She worked her way up through the ranks and her final position there was one of Assistant Secretary to the Chief Executive Secretary. She then moved on to Leicester Royal Infirmary where she worked in the department which administered complaints. After that she temped for a while and then took a position at Invoice Finance at The Midland Bank where she was Assistant Co-ordinator to a team of salespeople. She loved this role and was there for 23 years, eventually being responsible for a team of 30 – 35 people. In 2012 she was made redundant from the bank. But often these things can happen for a reason and that turned out to be the case for Mechelle.

In December of 2006 Mechelle received a phone call saying that her father, who had never been ill in his life, had been rushed into hospital. He was diagnosed with Acute Myeloid Leukaemia and was given a prognosis of 6-8 months. He fought it for two years. One day when her father was in hospital he and Mechelle went to the cafeteria for tea and cake. Her father knew that he was running out of time and he asked Mechelle to do two things. The first was that she should try to create something good after he had passed and the second was that she was going to have to pay the bill for the tea and cake as he had forgotten his wallet. He passed away a few days later. In a way her father had given her a gift and that was that she had direct experience of a cancer sufferer's 'journey'. Remember that at this time Mechelle had been made redundant and she was at a bit of a lose end as to what to do. She enrolled as a mature student on a counselling course and also attended a MacMillan Cancer Support course. It was also at this time that she and her partner decided to get married. It was a complicated period in her life but whilst she was on the cancer support course she began to realise that what she really wanted to do was to open her own cancer support centre. It was her promise to her Dad, that she would 'create something good', that made her determined to carry her dream forward and make it a success.

In 2014 Mechelle opened The Hummingbird Cancer Support Centre. It started life in the building where it is now but, initially, there were only two rooms. The funding for the centre, which is now a charity, comes from donations by local businesses. To spread the word that a new cancer centre had opened Mechelle went to see local doctors to discuss how to create a system whereby cancer patients at GP surgeries could be given a 'letter of recommendation' which would invite them to attend the cancer support centre if they wished. The patient would bring their letter of recommendation to the centre and then be registered and recognised to be on their 'journey'. The centre offers unconditional support to their guests - guests can be as open about their journey as they wish. The centre is not only for the guests themselves but is also there to offer support and guidance to family members and friends as the effects of cancer can be felt widely. The centre has expanded and evolved greatly since its inception. Further rooms have been added on the ground floor to include a relaxation space and also a room fitted out for pedicure and manicure and where guests can get their hair done for as we know – 'to look good is to feel good'. Whilst Mechelle and the volunteers at the centre aren't medically trained, Mechelle is keen to progress the staff's knowledge by employing a company to run training sessions. The main skills the volunteers need is empathy and a listening ear and these talents they have in abundance. If guest's needs are more complicated then the centre has a team of 8 counsellors who can work one-to-one with the guest and if guests require advice of a more medical nature then they are referred back to their GP. At the time of writing the centre has x guests receiving support and 50 volunteers who give their time freely. In 2016 the centre was a finalist in the Cherwell Business Awards and in 2017 they were Cherwell Business Awards winner, Oxfordshire Charity & Volunteer Awards winner for Management in Volunteers and also were awarded the Macmillan Quality Environment Mark.


Mechelle has plans for the centre in the coming year as the demand for the services that the centre offers is increasing and they need more space. Further into the future, Mechelle has dreams of creating a cancer hospice where guests can board which will compliment the services offered by the current centre.

Mechelle's father asked her to create something good and I should think that she has exceeded his expectations many times over. Her experience of administration derived from her earlier career path has enabled her to bring a professional approach to the development of The Hummingbird Centre which has put it on a solid foundation. It's easy to describe the centre in terms of numbers of rooms, guests and volunteers and services offered but that would be to miss out on the most important ingredients. It is the companionship, empathy and unconditional support, and yes, sorry to be a softie, the love given by Mechelle and the volunteers that makes The Hummingbird Centre so successful.

As I was leaving I turned to shake Mechelle's hand but instead she gave me a big hug. As Mechelle said 'We don't do hand-shakes at The Hummingbird'.


The Hummingbird Centre, Grange Courtyard, Station Road, Launton, Bicester OX26 5DX
Tel: 01869 244 244

Note: Alpha Cars Taxi Services very kindly provide free taxi services for guests to/from the centre. Go Alpha Cars FB