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Report from Mary Aikenhead Day Centre

Christmas Party 2Here we are again at the beginning of 2022, still struggling with the Covid Virus which put us, over 70’s, and the Mary Aikenhead Day Centre into lock-down back in March 2019. Since that time the human race all over the world has suffered and struggled with the pandemic which continues to produce new variants as scientists and health systems try to fight it with injections and various strategies. We want to record how Mary Aikenhead Centre coped with these challenges in 2021.

Meals-on-Wheels: We were blessed that we were able to continue to provide Meals-on-Wheels five days each week right through the year. Monday – Friday inclusive we sent out 75 – 80 meals each day which is a total of 400 per week. In order to protect the Meals-on-Wheels Service we were advised to close the Day Centre. We were told the old people could bring the virus in with them and infect the staff and then everything would have to close down and all those clients would be left without meals. We had to protect everybody involved – staff, volunteers, clients and drivers. The people who would normally attend the Day Centre could order a dinner to be sent to them through the Meals-on-Wheels so they were not left hungry or deserted either. In normal times we had 70 volunteer drivers but 20 of them were in their 70s or more and so they were lost to us during the lock-down. God was very good to us and we managed to find enough volunteer drivers to keep the service going and we thank God for these good people He sent us. We are also very grateful to God that none of the staff, drivers or volunteers caught the virus and we were able to keep the Meals-on-Wheels going from when we re-opened after Christmas 2020 until we closed for Christmas 2021.

Day Centre: The Day Centre opened again on 28th September and there was great joy among the staff as well as the clients. Everything had to be re-organised in keeping with the current health regulations. Social distancing meant that we could only have 4 at a table and the maximum number we could facilitate on any one day was 16 but we could take 40 over the week. They were now in pods of 7 and the number of meals served in the Centre and those sent out by Meals-on-Wheels totalled 500. All this change required a lot of thought, planning and paperwork. We have no Social Activities because of the virus, so life has changed for all these people who come to the Day Centre. Once a week we have Mass and we do light exercises with the clients in the Hall and all are socially distanced for safety.

Staff: We have been blessed with wonderful staff and volunteers but there are some who deserve special mention. Eileen has worked in the Centre for many years and everyone was shocked on a Friday last June when Eileen went home early as she felt sick. She went to the doctor on Monday and went into hospital the following day where she was diagnosed with liver and lung cancer. This lady ran the Centre during the first lock-down in 2019 when Sr. Marie had to stay out as she was 70 at the time. Eileen was given 6 – 9 months by the doctor when she was discharged and her family decided to care for her at home. Some of her friends and co-workers from the Centre visited her at home and all are now heart-broken and mourning this kind, efficient lady who died on 9th January 2022. May her generous soul rest in peace. Breda was another long-term worker who gave great service to the Centre. She has been out of work for most of the year due to health issues and has now retired after about 40 years here. We wish her health and happiness in the years ahead. Gillian is now employed to replace Eileen. We have replaced Breda with another Eileen who seems very enthusiastic and helpful.

Corona Virus: The pandemic has disrupted our lives but it also necessitated a lot more extra work. There is a mass of paperwork – Staff have to complete daily forms re health, contacts etc. Everyone who comes into the Centre must have their temperature taken and recorded. The people who come to the Day Centre also have to complete a form giving details of their health, contacts etc and as many of them cannot do it themselves a staff member must be available to do it and make sure they use the hand sanitiser on the way in and out. All these forms and documents have to be filed and kept safe for future reference in case of need. Sanitising is very important and every surface has to be sanitised when the clients move from the dining area after their morning cuppa to go to the hall for Mass or exercises. Then when they return for dinner the chairs etc in the hall have to be sanitised. Apart from the extra work there is also the expense of supplying masks, gloves, aprons and sanitisers.
For all of us here – staff, volunteers and clients – life has changed but not ended and we look forward in hope that we can resume at full capacity of people and activities in the not-too-distant future.