As tea party groups up and down the country begin to resume their much-loved gatherings after more than 18 months apart, two members of the North Bristol group share their experiences.
Rachel lost her husband 34 years ago. She says she is incredibly lucky to have a daughter, three grandchildren and six great-grandchildren, but can still feel lonely. The 95-year-old said: “Loneliness isn’t something you notice when you’re young, I certainly didn’t. But then it creeps up on you and suddenly you realise so many people have gone. But these tea-parties lift that burden, and you get a chance to make new friends and feel connected.”
The tea parties are the highlight of Rachel’s month, and she is delighted they are up and running again. She said: “Being re-united after all this time was just wonderful. The tea-parties are a godsend and give you something to put in your calendar. We are all so lucky to have such kind, caring volunteers who really spoil us. The teas are the most wonderful events, with delicious food and lovely company. It feels like being re-united with family.”
The group meets on the third Sunday of every month. Rachel has the highest praise for their group coordinator Wendy, who goes above and beyond for all the guests.
“Wendy works tirelessly for us all and makes our lives so much happier. Nothing is too much trouble for her, and she makes us feel special and so cared for. Lockdown was a real blow, but Wendy rallied around us all and called us every Sunday for a chat to make sure we were all okay. She checks in on us when we are feeling unwell and makes such beautiful handmade cards on our birthdays and for Christmas.”
Bristol NW3 group coordinator Wendy hosted her first tea party in March 2012 after she became a Re-engage volunteer, having retired from her job as a Neighbourhood Watch Administrator for the Avon and Sommerset Constabulary. She said: “Tea parties have remained a really important event in the calendar for guests, drivers and hosts, and it was devastating for everyone when we went into lockdown and all physical contact had to be suspended.
“So many of the guests were completely isolated, so I made the decision to phone each guest every Sunday, which I’ve done throughout the time it’s been impossible to hold tea parties. For some guests, this phone call was the only contact they had had all week.”
Wendy, 77, has been married to Les for 55 years and they have a daughter and a grandson. The tea party group she coordinates have become close friends who look out for one another.
She said: “All of our volunteers have been fantastic. They have also phoned guests, and one driver has baked and delivered a cake for each guest every two weeks. Others helped with shopping during the lockdowns.
“Face to face tea parties have been a welcome return for us all. For me it was so rewarding to see the joy felt by everyone present and to know how happy they were to be meeting up again. The chatter and laughter all afternoon was non-stop and the whole group is delighted to have something to look forward to each month.”
Horley Lions Club raise much needed funds
This month the Horley Lions Club CIO, which serves the local communities of Horley, Reigate, Redhill and the surrounding villages has chosen Re-engage as their charity for the remainder of this year and into 2022.
Meet call companion Alison
Alison is a call companion and a call companion interviewer and this is her dog Poppy. Alison was born with Spina Bifida and in 2009 she had to retire early as deterioration of her spine severely restricted her mobility. She told us "I am so glad I have found Re-engage as at last I feel useful again - something I have sorely missed since retiring."