Thembalami faces coronavirus as a united family

Resident John McCall (72) and little Amo (4) – the grandson of the care centre’s Matron Paulina Namo – have a special bond.

Thembalami’s heart-warming response to the the pandemic

Despite the coronavirus lockdown, Thembalami Care Centre is abuzz with activity.

The Lombardy East-based Rand Aid care centre, which incorporates the Max Ordman Deaf Association (MODA), is not able to welcome visitors, including family members of loved ones and external service providers, such as their regular hairdresser. Staff and residents themselves have pulled together to overcome loneliness and find ways to keep the care centre functioning as normally as possible.

Occupational therapy technician Neo Sefuti ensure that art, crafts, board games and puzzles are on offer in the sunny and spacious occupational therapy (OT) room.

WhatsApp video calls have been started to ensure residents and their loved ones are able to connect, albeit remotely.

“The residents and their family members have expressed their appreciation at this initiative,” says social worker Lara Hurwitz. “We have had many moments of joy and tears.”

Deputy manager Elize Raath holds regular story-time sessions, with residents gathering happily around her while she reads to them from a book containing short stories.

Due to hairdressing services being disrupted by the lockdown, staff members have rolled up their sleeves and are assisting residents who are unable to take care of their own hair, by washing and drying it for them.

Meanwhile, the residents themselves have stepped up. Two residents of MODA, Barry Waldeck and Shaun White, are looking after the chickens and greenhouse herbs, and vegetable garden, respectively.

“They were a Godsend when our garden service was unable to operate because it was not deemed to be an essential service,” says manager Esme van der Walt.

“We have an extensive vegetable garden and Shaun and Barry have done their best to look after it. Shaun has put up a sign saying: ‘Shaun’s Office’ in a little lapa nearby and has books there to learn from. Barry has done great work looking after the herbs and seedlings in the greenhouse and after the egg-laying chickens,” says Esme.

“We are all very grateful to both Shaun and Barry, who can be proud of the contribution they have made,” says Lara.

The care centre’s Friday Night Social Group decided that a braai would lift the spirits of residents and at lunchtime on Friday, May 8, members gathered under the main lapa and lit the braai fires. “Good conversation and food made for a pleasant afternoon,” says Elize.

The Hope Café, run by resident Adrienne Bass, has been stocked with extra products to compensate for the fact that residents are unable to go on the scheduled shopping trips that took place prior to lockdown.

“We have started stocking more of what the residents would normally buy outside because they can’t go out. We are refining this regularly. We sell the basics: toilet paper, toothpaste, tea, coffee, Cremora, chips, biscuits, chocolates, sweets and cold drinks,” says Esme.

Another staff member, Lerato Semenya, assists with stock taking, shopping, pricing and change.

In addition, staff assist residents to place delivery orders with the local Pick n Pay, which delivers en-mass.

Special moments abound too, like the relationship that has developed between wheelchair-bound resident John McCall (72) and Amo (4), the grandson of Rand Aid veteran of 35 years, Matron Paulina Namo.

Although the two are unable to have physical contact, they spend many a happy hour bonding on either side of an internal gate, with the appropriate amount of space between them.

Deputy manager Elize Raath washes resident Celia Fish’s hair.

MODA resident Isabel du Plessis blow dries the hair of another resident, Elizabeth Andrews.

Manager Esme van der Walt gives resident Nigel Coote’s hair a wash.

Waiting for her colour to set is resident Lily Eales.

As pretty as a picture… Resident Lily Eales sports a newly coloured and styled hairdo.

Residents Tony O’Shea and Donald Cochrane dig in at the Friday braai organised by residents.

Resident Adrienne Bass savours the last of her chop at the Friday Night Social Group’s braai.

Friday Night Social Group’s Moira Dowds and Davina Bishop get ready to tuck in.

A bit of this and a bit of that… Thembalami resident Heather Abrams at the braai organised by the Friday Night Social Group.

MODA resident Shaun White in his ‘office’ and out in the field – working in the care centre’s vegetable garden.

Barry Waldeck, a MODA resident, has volunteered to look after the chickens, herbs and seedlings.

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