Old and young pen pals meet for the first time to transform garden at Latham Lodge Care Home

27th July 2022

Latham Lodge Care Home welcomed pupils from the local area to transform the home’s garden. Over the course of the pandemic, residents and students from Oaklands Catholic School formed a pen pal partnership, which saw many lovely connections being formed between the home and school. It wasn’t until a recent social action day that marked the first-time residents and school children met in person, making the day extra special for those involved.

Funded and organised by the local grassroots charity, Caritas, the Social Action Arm of the Portsmouth Roman Catholic Diocesan Trust, encouraged young pupils to give back to the local community by improving the garden area for residents to enjoy this summer.

Overseeing the day, Caritas Portsmouth worked with over 30+ pupils and staff to get their hands stuck into a range of green-fingered activities such as building a hedgehog house, creating a wildflower patch, repurposing the staff break area by adding a new timber bench and much more.

Caring Homes’ Latham Lodge, home manager, Carol Taylor, said: “Despite the heat of the day, the children did an incredible job. It was so lovely to see the buzzing activity in the garden which was infectious to our residents. In fact, a couple of residents were up and downstairs before 10 am and went outside to help. There was one young man who was particularly chatty with all of our residents and even assisted one resident to paint the fence.

“Over the past week, residents have shown more interest in going outside which is exactly what we had hoped for. The children loved the day so much that a couple of the pupils have asked if they could come back to visit residents during their summer holiday.”

Alan Bennett, one of the residents who were keen to paint the fence, said: “I was very grateful for the children coming to work on our garden as I thoroughly enjoyed their presence. I am very much looking forward to seeing them again.”

Edith Roberts, a 102-year-old resident, said: “I think the day worked beautifully, it was lovely to see the garden after all their hard work. The children were so helpful and lovely, they did a great job.”

One of the volunteer pupils commented: "It was a lovely experience - we sanded and painted the fences, weeded and planted flowers. The carers were lovely, and the residents were very excited to see us helping out. Despite the heat, the atmosphere was very fun and upbeat. They even gave us ice lollies to cool off. I was looking forward to it so much and I had such a good time. And if we are allowed to help the residents out again, I will definitely sign-up for it!”

Other students said: “I wanted to help the old people and make them feel happy as we all know they have had a tough time in the past two years”, with another student commenting: “I volunteered to make it as enjoyable as the care home possible.”

Debbie Pearson, wellbeing coordinator at Caring Homes’ Latham Lodge, said: “We have been completely overwhelmed by the kindness from the charity and the children. They have both worked so hard to make this day happen and it was just amazing to see.

“On behalf of Latham Lodge’s staff and residents, we wanted to say a huge thank you to Caritas Portsmouth for funding this project and the students at Oaklands Catholic School, we can’t wait to welcome you back again in the Autumn.”

With plans to return to the home every season, Caritas Portsmouth and Oaklands Catholic School are already planning many ways on how to further improve the garden for the benefit of residents and staff at the home.

Phil Paulo, interim head of charity at Caritas, said: “Following the great work completed by students and staff from Oaklands, Caritas plans to expand activities with pupils this coming autumn and use this case study to encourage other diocese schools to involve students in their own Community Social Action.”

Danielle Newbiggin, English Teacher and Romero Award Ambassador at Oaklands Catholic School said: “Oaklands Catholic School believe in caring for and giving back to our community; we are inspired by the words and actions of Oscar Romero and as a result our students have been sending Christmas and Easter cards to the residents at Latham Lodge over the last year, getting to know some of them who wrote back.

“This summer, we were overwhelmed with student volunteers to come and renovate the garden areas at Latham Lodge. The hope was that if we brightened up the garden, then the residents may want to be outside more often, just in time for the glorious weather.

“Caritas, Latham Lodge and some very generous donations of plants, solar lights, and seeds from Tesco’s Havant, enabled the students to transform multiple areas of the garden. The students and staff from Oaklands were led and instructed by a fabulous team from Caritas who taught students how to build, sand, paint, and plant.

The students gave the work 100% and didn’t stop for the whole six hours, despite it being the hottest day of the year so far. The home kindly gave the students ice creams as a thank you from the residents and staff. We hope that we have brought a smile and some joy to the hearts of many of the residents and the staff.”

“We fully intend to return in the Autumn and continue this project. This really was such a blessed example of what we can achieve when the community support each other.”

Latham Lodge Care Home provides residential and nursing care on a permanent and short stay basis. If you are looking for a care home and want to find out more about our home call us on freephone 0808 223 5519.

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