The Beginning Of New Friendships: An Afternoon Tea

Posted by Trishna Shah on Oct 29, 2010
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"Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around."  -- Leo Buscaglia

Last Sunday, thirteen people from the London CF posse came together in full force to host a lovely Afternoon Tea Party at St. Wilfrid's nursing home for a group of elderly residents! 

Over the past couple of months, we planned the programme for the party and organised all the logistics including online sign-ups to bring different bits and pieces for the event along with roles to play on the day.  Then on Sunday, it all came together beautifully as we met up at the nursing home and transformed the conservatory into a beautiful tea party.  Everyone helped to arrange the room, prepare the florist station and set-up food and drinks ahead of the party.  We then shared a minute of silence together followed by a circle of sharing our intentions for the day.  We  concluded that we all had come together to share our presence whole-heartedly with the elderly community at St Wilfrid's and really wanted to be there to connect with them, listen to them and make them smile :)

The tea party was off to a lovely start with Carl offering his musical talents by playing some classic tunes that everyone loved on the piano, Mehwaesh and Jackie offering their expert florist skills to the guests by designing beautiful made-to-order floral arrangements for each of them to take back to their rooms afterwards, and everyone else welcoming the guests as they arrived, helping them to get seated (which is no easy task with several wheelchairs, walking sticks and whatnot about the room) :), offering them a drink and most importantly connecting with them heart-to-heart. 

Over the course of the afternoon, we all had a chance to listen deeply to the interesting stories that the residents shared with us.  There was lovely 92-year old Joe who fought in the wars, couldn’t stop smiling throughout the afternoon and was just so full of life and energy that none of us could believe he was really 92!  And Joyce who moved to the UK from New Zealand as her only son settled here and she wanted to be connected to the family as they grew up, along with Penelope whose brothers were all allowed to join the Army but she had to settle with being in the Navy and was so proud to share her involvement over the years.  Oh, and then there was Sheela…  at first, many people found it a bit challenging to connect with her as she really kept to herself and put up walls as soon as you tried to engage.  But over time, and with persistence to reach through to her, many of the volunteers slowly watched the walls come down and were able to offer their presence to her in a way she just couldn’t turn down :)

Half-way through the party, we began to serve high tea with Paras, Aarifah and Ram leading the tea and coffee station along with Rakhee, Jenny, Tilusha and Amit serving up some delicious sandwiches and cakes, all beautifully presented on lovely little cake stands of course :), Bini and Raz doing some magical community weaving and making sure our guests were well looked after and finally Carl playing some beautiful tunes on the piano in the background while everybody mingled.  The afternoon flew by with more stories about the lives these lovely people lived over the past 75-90 years (on average) :) all while nibbling on some delicious cakes. 

As the party came to an end, some volunteers assisted guests in getting back to their rooms, while others were busy clearing up the conservatory and rearranging the room back to its normal set-up.   We concluded with a closing circle of sharing in which everyone had an opportunity to share stories with the group from throughout the afternoon and how the event personally impacted them – let’s just say, it was super inspiring stuff! 

The volunteers were generally really pleased to have the opportunity to connect with a group of elderly folks, who are often very isolated in the environment of a nursing home and many who don't get frequent visitors.  We heard from the staff that many of them sit at the same dining table every meal with the same 3 people daily and often don’t say a single word to each other, ever.  We heard that when a resident had recently passed away, someone asked who that person was as they didn’t know the name – turns out it was someone they sat and ate their meals with for all these years, and they didn’t even know this person’s name! 

All of the volunteers really enjoyed having the opportunity to connect with the residents and genuinely make them feel loved and cared for, even if it is by anonymous people in the community who they don’t even really know.  :)  And it was clear from the conversations we had with the residents over the course of the afternoon that they were just as delighted to connect with the youthful energy our group brought to the nursing home.  Many of the guests told us that nothing goes on around there on the weekends, so they were really grateful that we had organized this event on a Sunday afternoon.  

Paula, the wonderful activities coordinator at the home who was so incredible to collaborate with to put the whole event together, sent me a lovely email following the event, which sums it all up...

Dear Trishna,

I just wanted to take the opportunity to thank you once again, for the stupendous effort that you and your team made yesterday afternoon at St Wilfrid's. The residents were overwhelmed by your generosity and kindness. They have spoken to me throughout the day and remarked upon your enthusiasm and remarkable efforts. You certainly made a difference- THANK YOU!!

In short; they want you back! I hope that you will be able to join us in December for a Christmas celebration and a sing-a-long.

I look forward to hearing from you.

Kindest regards,

Paula x

Check out this link for all the photos from the day and watch this space as we begin to plan our next activity for the elderly residents at St. Wilfrid’s in the lead up to Christmas! :)  Do leave us a comment here if you have any ideas you'd like to share for our upcoming Christmas celebration!

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Comments (6)

  • Mehwaesh wrote ...

    Trishna, thanks for giving us the opportunity to serve the elderly at St. Wilfrid's!They had so many stories to share and there is so much to learn from them.Interacting with some of the lively residents made me think that ageing is a life process and a state of mind - not necessarily something to fear.

  • Amit Patel wrote ...

    What a great concept. The day was fantastic. Well done to all involved! :)

  • Daxa Shah wrote ...

    Hi Trishna, this is Daxa from Mombasa, Kenya. Was so touched to read the above. Ever since Mombasa has become more of senior citizen town, Jitu and I, from time to time, entertain the elderly of our community by holding various programmes like, quizes [ religious as well as general], games, antakshari, picnics, etc. In fact this year we had a Valentine lunch for them with romantic games, music, tombola and best dressed lady/gent. They all felt very "young at heart". A smile on their face and the ability to make them forget their ailment/problems for a short time is just priceless! Keep up the good work!

  • Hitesh wrote ...

    Wow - "We heard from the staff that many of them sit at the same dining table every meal with the same 3 people daily and often donít say a single word to each other, ever. We heard that when a resident had recently passed away, someone asked who that person was as they didnít know the name Ė turns out it was someone they sat and ate their meals with for all these years, and they didnít even know this personís name! "

    You really made a difference Trishna & friends! Thanks so much.

  • vina hindocha wrote ...

    Wonderful work - keep it up - it is good to give a smile to others.

  • Merton wrote ...

    BEAUTIFUL!!! Experiences such as these are so precious for everyone involved, giving meaning to life for each person...young and old. Thank you and blessings! aloha, Merton