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Chai's £1 million extension

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Chai Cancer Care has marked its 20th anniversary by opening a £1 million extension to its Hendon headquarters.

The new facility incorporates four counselling rooms, a large gym area, a waiting room with a separate entrance to protect privacy and garden areas.

It will allow the charity to provide services for an extra 200 people every week.

Actress Maureen Lipman and Conservative peer Lord Young were among more than 100 guests at a launch reception on Monday.

A Chai counsellor, Darija Stojnic, said: "The most important thing about counselling is confidentiality. The soundproof walls in the extension are so important.

Everything was thought through to add to privacy

"The gardens also have a dual purpose - they help clients to rest and also stop people seeing through to the other rooms. Everything was thought through to add to privacy."

Opening the extension, Chai chair Louise Hager recalled that her late mother Frances Winegarten was one of two "inspirational women" who founded it, "determined to break the taboo that surrounded cancer". She had "survived cancer for 26 years against all the odds and died of a heart attack aged 84.

"I look around at what has now been achieved and it's bittersweet because all of us wish we were out of business tomorrow. But while there is need, Chai will be here.

"Thousands of people will benefit from these beautiful, nurturing surroundings."

Professor David Latchman, chair of trustees at the Wohl Foundation, a major donor to the new building, said Chai "will always be close to our hearts. The magnificent work they are doing is something we can relate to."

Ms Lipman, a Chai patron, paid tearful tribute to the late Lady Jakobovits for her pivotal contribution to Chai.

"It was Amelie's idea to bring together the two people behind Chai [the other was Susan Shipman]. She is now sitting on the Lord's right hand telling him how to stop a flotilla and bake a challah and we miss her tremendously. But what a spirit to carry into this building and to the next generations."

Affixing a mezuzah, Barnet Mayor Councillor Anthony Finn said: "I can't imagine Barnet or Anglo-Jewry without Chai Cancer Care. It has been an inspiration."

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