By Crystal Conway
It’s been said that you never really know a person until you’ve walked in their shoes. Perhaps that might explain the mission that brought seven very special seniors to Guyana.
All of them were born here but each one migrated to live in Canada decades ago. Part of a group called the Senior Guyanese Friendship Association based in Toronto, Canada, they are all united by a common purpose – to help other seniors cope with the challenges of aging.
They were here earlier this week to donate supplies to at least two Geriatric care facilities and several orphanages. Their first stop was the Palms Geriatric Home on Brickdam where they handed over a number of toiletries, and basic necessities to the residents of the institution. They took a little time to meet some of the residents of the home who they were helping and even braved the stairs to see all of the wards – both male and female.
While the others made their way upstairs to see the women, one of the women, Ruth, who was wrestling with her digital camera, told me why she was there. She said, “But for my family, I might be in a home just like this, I’m lucky.” Then she went back to grumbling about how her daughter should have let her bring her old camera that used film.
Administrator of the home, Mr. Govind Singh, thanked the group for the presentation; he said that it was little things, little luxuries like these that the institution needed. He pointed out that the Government provides for the necessities, but the institution depended on the public to donate the other things to help the nurses and care givers at the home make it easier for their charges.
While he was there he also noted that the institution had just completed construction of a recreational facility. He said that they were hoping to offer the residents a place where they could get together and spend time socially. He noted that they were also planning to include a section with gym equipment for those seniors who need to get some physical exercise.
I asked Mr. Singh what were some of the things that the public could donate if they were so inclined to make the recreational facility more comfortable for the residents. He said that books – especially large print ones – would be appreciated so that they could start a library, as well as DVDs and other items that would add entertainment value to the centre, such as chess and checker boards as well as playing cards and other games that might appeal to the residents.
After visiting with the residents at the Palms, the group made their way over to Uncle Eddie’s Home. On the bus ride I had a chat with Mrs. Una Bullen-Valladares one of the group members who proceeded to give me a little history on the Association, while Mrs. Doreen Moore filled in any blanks Una might have left out.
She told me that the Association was chartered in Toronto in 1973, and although most of the people on this trip would not have been called seniors back then, their parents were members. Una explained that over the years the organization’s membership had been as high as 200 persons but today it was about 140. Not all of the members were able to come out, she noted, but those that could, engaged in a number of social activities as well as visiting those members who were convalescents and shut-ins. The group, she said, tended to go on all kinds of trips and cruises as well as engage in their charity activities – at which point Doreen interjected, “It’s basically about the camaraderie.”
Una pointed out that the laws of Ontario do not allow for segregation and as such their association could not be a ‘Guyanese’ one, hence the addition of the word Friendship to the name of the Association. She said that the Senior Guyanese Friendship Association today has a healthy membership that also includes Trinidadians, Jamaicans and Barbadians, but mostly Guyanese.
By this time the bus had arrived at Uncle Eddie’s home where all seven members eagerly got off despite their numerous aches and pains which were acting up because of the rain that morning. They went into the home and took their tour, greeted the residents with no less enthusiasm than at the previous Home and did it all over again. By the time they left the country on Friday, the group had made visits and donations to several facilities including Joshua House.
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