Yvonne, 79, lives in Manchester. Before retiring she worked as a cleaner at a university. She has a big family with three grown-up children and lots of grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
Yvonne used to love to cook for her family and to potter around the local markets with friends. Unfortunately, in 2018 a bad accident left her with a damaged spine. She spent nine months in hospital recovering and is now a wheelchair user.
"Since the accident, I can't walk. It's been a bad time, spending all the months in hospital. . . I used to do a lot of cooking and baking. I can’t even go in the kitchen now to make myself a cup of tea.”
Yvonne has lost a lot of her independence and requires care at home, where she lives by herself. Her limited mobility means she can no longer cook for herself or pop out to the shops.
“I’m lucky to be alive, but I feel so lonely sometimes. I used to love going out and to the markets with my friends. I used to be all over the place, but I can’t go anymore.”
Although her daughter Natasha is a frequent visitor, she still worries about Yvonne: “Her outlook on life was about working hard and making sure me and my siblings were well looked after. She’s such a kind, loving person. . . I was most concerned for her mental wellbeing and the fact she wasn’t eating properly – and not being able to do the things she’s always enjoyed doing, being free and independent."
Soon after returning home from hospital, Yvonne started to visit the African Caribbean Care Group (ACCG) twice a week. The ACCG is a lively and friendly daycare service for older members of the community – including those with long term health conditions, disabilities, and mental health problems.
They aim to help people to maintain their connections and social contact. Group activities include exercise sessions, painting, dominoes, and listening to music from the past. Everyone is served a hot, healthy lunch – something most would not be able to provide for themselves at home. This has been of huge importance to Yvonne.
"The food means a lot to me. I don't think I'd be able to cope without it. I don't know what I would have done."
All the meals are culturally appropriate, with favourites including steamed fish, jerk chicken, macaroni, and curry goat. As well as lunch, the group are able to take home a delicious dinner to heat at home. They will often receive additional deliveries throughout the week, ensuring everyone has enough nutritious food to eat on days when they don’t come to the centre.
“I have one hot meal there, and then I take one home. You get a good portion too. They make sure there’s a meal with lots of vegetables in it. I really enjoy the meals.”
Yvonne’s daughter Natasha is very pleased that the ACCG are there to support her mother: “I can’t imagine some people are just at home, not having a hot meal. It’s not right. Having a hot, cooked meal – a Caribbean meal as well – it means a lot to her.”
The ACCG make these nourishing meals each week from the food they receive from FareShare – and that’s where Comic Relief comes in. Money raised for Red Nose Day is helping FareShare to distribute surplus food from supermarkets to local community groups across the UK to ensure vulnerable people aren’t going without good quality meals.
Support from the ACCG has made a huge difference to Yvonne’s life and her confidence has improved enormously since attending. She’s made strong friendships within the group, and likes to spend the afternoons at the centre knitting and chatting, helping with gardening in the spring, and enjoying the music. She looks forward to the hot meals each week, and her physical health has improved as a result: "I think it's a lovely place. They really look out for everyone. I love going. It’s mixture of all people. I enjoy the exercises too!”
Extra deliveries mean she doesn’t have to worry about what to eat at home either – which is a relief to Yvonne and her family. Natasha is very happy that her mother is able to both eat healthily and be socially active again: “Rather than just being stuck at home, she has a place to go to feel really connected, and valued, and feel part of the community which is really important”.
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