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Esther and Genevieve, two students at Monkton Combe School talk about their experiences volunteering at Bridgemead:
Genevieve says: “I started volunteering at Bridgemead every Wednesday in September 2017 and since then I have learned a variety of new skills and even made new friends! At the start, I was always nervous to initiate a conversation with residents but once I noticed how some of their faces lit up when we walked into the sitting room, I was encouraged and have now found that my conversational skills have indeed got better. My afternoons at Bridgemead are the highlight of my week and what I look forward to. Each week we serve tea and cakes at tea time, once we’ve cleared up, we chat to the residents. After coming for five months, I know most of them fairly well and therefore have weekly catch ups.
I can definitely say that this has boosted my confidence and has made a more caring, understanding and patient person.”
Esther says: “Every Wednesday afternoon as part of community service from our school, my friend and I come to Bridgemead care home to volunteer by doing the tea round and chatting with the elderly residents. I have found that by investing the time to sit down, have a conversation and listen to the residents’ stories I have learnt not only about all the many paths people take in their lives and the wisdom they have learnt but also how to be patient, kind and how to genuinely take interest and learn from someone in such a different stage of life from me. I began this volunteering thinking it would be just another good item to put on my CV but after lots of cups of teas and a few months later I have realised that it so much more than that, it’s given me a chance to make connections with people I otherwise would never have spoken to, to show me the importance of valuing and respecting our elderly population and how to always be ready to help others and be there for whatever is needed. I am so grateful for the opportunity Bridgemead has given me and I would encourage anyone to take the time to go and volunteer there, as the reward is so much more than that amount of time could get you.”
Bridgemead and its residents are very grateful to the girls for giving up their time to help. Geoff Weekes says: “Having the girls with us has been a pleasure. They have clearly benefitted from the experience but the residents themselves have so enjoyed the experience of having the girls with us. I found their attitudes to the residents and to their work amongst us to be both a credit to themselves and to the school. The statements made by the girls are both heart-warming and inspirational.”
Lord Foster of Bath visited Bridgemead on 13th January. He came down from Suffolk to see some of the residents, Iris Stanton, Jean Kemmery and Ruth Hewetson.
He said: “I like to go off and talk to people rather than follow a script, and when I do that here I find that everyone is so positive. This is a huge testimony to the staff who work here. Bridgemead always gets very high praise. I have been to a number of events here. I remember coming here with Shirley Williams to a concert and we were told off for singing too noisily! When I was Deputy Mayor of the Paralympic Village I went to an Olympic event here too. At Bridgemead there is always something going on, there are a lot of activities to engage people. People always have a chance to do new things rather than just fade away. They are given care and support to get on and do the things they really want to do. I love this place.”
Iris Stanton told Lord Foster: “This is a super place. We are well looked after and I feel safe.”
Widcombe Baptist Church Sunday School performed their Nativity service on Sunday 17th December; a highlight of the Christmas calendar at Bridgemead for many years. The teaching staff and children have been hard at work for the past six weeks learning their parts and songs, accompanied by piano and guitar. This year the story was told using hand-held puppets.
As part of their contribution towards Christmas at Bridgemead the children prepared personalised cards and hand-made presents for each of the residents and, after the performance, presented their gifts individually to each resident at the service, and delivered gifts to residents who were in their rooms: all were delighted with their Christmas treats.
Karen Tyler, the leader of the Sunday School, commented “It is a privilege for the children and teachers to come to Bridgemead for the Nativity service each year. The children enjoy preparing to tell the Christmas story through drama and song and love making presents and cards to give to the residents. We would like to look into the possibility of coming on other occasions during 2018 and would love to come again next Christmas if we’re invited.”
More than twenty children performed to a packed hall of residents, visitors and parents. The residents, in particular, enjoyed the performance. Afterwards everybody joined with the children and their teachers singing Christmas carols. Geoff Weekes, Chair of the Trustees, said: “It was, as usual, an uplifting experience. The blend of all ages reminded us once again, from the lips of children, the real Christmas story: Emmanuel ‘God is with us’ in the birth of a child who was destined to become our Saviour.”
Kelvin Thomas, MBE, aged 98 was in fine voice at Bridgemead Christmas Concert, performed by the Silver Ring choir on Monday 11th December. Mr Thomas who founded the Choir in 1951, said jokingly “I’m not going strong, but I’m still going…” as he sang ‘Trade Winds’, ‘The Little Road to Bethlehem’ and a solo in Welsh. “His voice is even better than it was 10 years ago,” said choir member Jane Tabb, whose sister Mary Bradley is having respite care at Bridgemead.
Mr Thomas was welcomed to Bridgemead by the Mayor of Bath, Councillor Ian Gilchrist, who is 790th Mayor of Bath. Mr Thomas said that his relation Sydney Smith was Mayor of Bath in 1956. The current Mayor who had already been to five functions on Monday and has five more booked in for the next day said: “I’m really happy to be here and represent the City at your lovely event.”
Thirty-five members of the choir performed a lively Christmas recital, led by conductor Philip Draisey, with John Lowe on the piano. Colin Gilbert, whose mother had been in respite care at Bridgemead said ‘The Choir sings for pleasure. We delight in using our gift as a gift to the audience. My mother was here for 5 weeks and Bridgemead is a marvellous place.”
Pam Bourton, Manager of Bridgemead said: “It is such a pleasure to have the Silver Ring Choir here, everyone enjoys their visit so much.” The residents loved the performance and the mince pies made by Mark the chef were highly praised and the mulled wine provided by Caroline Curnock and served by Friends of Bridgemead, was delicious. Ruth Holbrook, a former Chair of Friends of Bridgemead who has been a volunteer for 24 years, and Elizabeth and David Kavanagh who have led ‘Quiet Time’ at Bridgemead for 12 years were thanked for their help and presented flowers.
Marian McNeir, MBE, Patron of Bridgemead thanked the Choir for coming to Bridgemead. She said that the Choir had just performed at the Guild Hall in a ceremony presenting the Legion D’Honneur to three veterans, on behalf of the French Government and would be performing on Wednesday 20th December at St Michael’s Without, Broad Street.
Thank you to our Senior Carer, Denise Harris for creating our ‘Bridgemead Christmas Table Display’ and for dressing the house ready for Christmas for us all to enjoy.
” The Fayre raised £762.95 – an excellent result!” says Una McCullough the organiser of Bridgemead Christmas Fayre on Saturday 2nd December.
She says: “It was a happy afternoon with a number of new faces there. I spoke to Philip, the vicar of St Stephen’s Church who was there with his two children. He had been visiting his Father-in-law. Weston Village Townswomen’s Guild has Bridgemead as their 2018 charity so many of our members were present; and one was lucky enough to win the hamper! ”
The raffle was very popular and there was a wonderful selection of crafts on display. Two tombolas tempted many visitors and as always the cake and book stalls were crowded. Pam was kept very busy serving the refreshments and the delicious mince pies cooked by Bridgemead were greatly enjoyed by all.
Una says: “What pleased me most was the wonderful team spirit which prevailed throughout, all the helpers were great!”
Geoff Weekes, Chair of Bridgemead Trustees, thanked all the friends and supporters of Bridgemead at the 25th birthday party held at Bridgemead on 23rd November. Around 60 supporters came including the Deputy Mayor, Councillor Rob Appleyard, who said “I’ve visited Bridgemead several times and really feel the incredible warmth of the place.”
A Happy Place
The Revd Neville Pearce said:
“This takes me back 25 years, going round all the churches with Ray King and raising money for Bridgemead to be built. It’s a wonderful place, and now I’m a potential resident…”
Ex volunteer Morfydd Jones agreed: “Bridgemead is such a happy place. I volunteered doing the trolley here for six years, but then had to stop when I got shingles. Now I’ve got my name on the list….”
A vast array of enticing canapes were provided by Una McCullogh and her team. Sally Fuller and Frankie Knapp who have visited Bridgemead for many years said it was a very good event and “the food was wonderful.”
Geoff Weekes said: ” We are so grateful for everyone for all their contributions, giving their time, money and prayers. Through your support many lives have been touched and elderly people have flourished.” Marian McNeir, MBE and Patron of Bridgemead explained that her mother was a resident and she “spent her last years here being loved and cherished. My family is so impressed by all the staff and trustees who care so passionately and it is that passion which will help us realise our vision.”
Geoff Weekes went on to talk about the need for a new vision for Bridgemead which is informed by today’s needs – the rising river levels, and the increasingly complex care needs of the residents.
“Some of the people here have been involved since Bridgemead was built, or even before that, and some are far more recent, but everyone’s contribution is so valuable. We are so grateful and it is lovely to see so many people here and feel the huge support for Bridgemead both in the past and in the future. We can continue to make a difference to the lives of our residents and their families, as well as to the community of Bath.”