Friday, 2 November 2018

Nurture by Nature Workshop

Two workshops were presented by Alice Ashwell, an environmental educator from Dementia Connections SA who flew up from Cape Town to teach us about the importance of making nature and the outdoors a part of everyday life here at the care centre. 
Getting a daily dose of morning sunlight is beneficial to our health; time spent in nature can help with fitness, stamina, appetite and bone health, and can strengthen our immune system and improve sleep.

Workshop participants did some craft and creative activities using nature’s resources and some relaxation exercises, all of which will be shared with care centre residents in the future. 

The care centre’s Debbie Christen comments: “This workshop helped us realise that this beautiful environment in which we are all so privileged to work and live, is not just for ‘pretty’ – it is a natural habitat where our souls can be calmed and nourished.”


Ethelwynne’s interesting story shared

Back row: Zabeth Zühlsdorff (Rand Aid management), Victor van Eck (son), Nathalie van Eck (daughter-in-law), Ivan van Eck (son) and Phyllis Phillips (Ron Smith’s liaison manager). Front row: Jill Jones and Ethelwynne van Eck.


Rand Aid’s Ron Smith Care Centre and Elphin Lodge believe that if a resident has a good story to tell, it should be shared.

The staff love creating platforms for residents and staff to get to know each other a little better. One of the ways this is achieved is through the Eden Alternative ‘My Story’ initiative, in which the wonderful life stories of village and care centre residents are captured in booklet form, thereby affirming and validating the personhood of each individual.

On October 26, family, friends and fellow residents of Ethelwynne van Eck from the Woodlands wing of Ron Smith Care Centre, as well as various members of staff, gathered for a celebration tea at which Ethelwynne was presented with her newly-printed booklet.

Ethelwynne’s neighbour, Jill Jones, spent many hours with her, recording and writing up her story from her earliest years to the present day. From family struggles during the war and post-war days, through university successes and work as a teacher, to her marriage and a good life with exciting travels and many joyous occasions.

She tells of funny experiences in bringing up four children, all of whom are now graduates with successful careers, and how she became a talented and very successful artist.

The charmed good life, however, suddenly came to a halt in August 2015 when she suffered a stroke which left her right side paralysed. She was devastated as she now had to rely on others and, worst of all, she could no longer paint.

She moved to the Ron Smith Care Centre and eventually was introduced to the Tuesday morning art group at Elphin Lodge. It was here that she started training herself to draw with her left hand and gradually she started to paint again. She has set up her room as her art studio and it is there that she spends hours doing what she loves most – painting in oils.

Her friend, Jill, commented: “Eth’s fortitude in the face of frustrating circumstances is something I admire greatly. She deserves all praise for learning how to use her left hand and being able to paint so beautifully again.”

Her son Victor spoke about his mother being initially reluctant to move from her beautiful home into the care centre but today, he said, she tells him how happy she is now and how she would not like to live anywhere else.

She feels that she is well cared for and her life is full, with her friends, her art, her iPad and continuing interest in the news and world around her. She is content.

An example of the work Ethelwynne van Eck is managing to produce using her left hand.

Wednesday, 31 October 2018

Former Bedford mayor turns 90

Former Bedfordview mayor Brian Russell was guest of honour at a surprise party hosted by his calisthenics class on October 26.

The long-time Rand Aid resident – first happily occupying a cottage with wife Lynne in Inyoni Creek, and more recently a resident of the Ron Smith Care Centre – regularly does calisthenics to keep fit and agile.

Brian met his wife in 1936 when they both lived in Parktown West and attended Parkview Junior and Senior Schools. They were married in January 1955 and celebrated their 60th wedding anniversary in 2015. Sadly Lynne has passed away.

Apart from serving as mayor, Brian was a Bedfordview councillor for over 10 years. He also served as a representative of South Africa’s minerals and energy sector in the United States and the couple lived in Washington DC for six years.

Brian served as a parish minister at St Margaret’s Anglican Church for over 60 years before retiring a few years back.

His actual birthday was on October 25 and his family arrived en masse on Saturday, October 27, to celebrate the achievement of nine decades well lived.

Gail Brown, Lorna van Heerden, Brian Russell, Merle Matthews, Roger Matthews, Inyoni Creek manager Jenny Tonkin, Estelle Truter (calisthenics instructor), Pam Barden and Allan van Heerden at Brian’s surprise party.

 Brian Russell with Inyoni Creek manager Jenny Tonkin.

Friday, 26 October 2018

Camping turns colleagues into family

 Happy staff members mean happy residents

Sr Leanie Bessinger, the charge sister at Ron Smith Care Centre’s River Lodge 1, shares details of a camping trip taken by the staff to promote bonding:

After months of saving money and planning our camping trip, the day finally arrived. 
On the morning of 28 September we all woke up at the crack of dawn to get ready for our departure to Weavers Roost in the Hekpoort Area. Everybody was anxious to get into the cars and start the weekend.

On arrival at Weavers Roost, we checked out our camping sites and decided where to pitch our tents and gazebo. The nurses had never camped before, but quickly learned how to pitch a tent after I showed them what to do. It did not take long to get our house in order and get everyone set up in their respective tents.

On our first day, it started raining and we all took cover under the gazebo, chatting and laughing when we had to run in the rain to get to the ablution facilities. Despite the rain, we managed to have a braai, complete with mielie pap, for dinner. Everyone was exhausted from all the hard work pitching their tents and went to bed early on Friday night.

Most of us were up early on Saturday morning, eager to explore. After breakfast we went for a hike and explored the mountain. After that everybody went swimming to cool off a bit. The brave ones went up to the mountain a second time on Saturday afternoon while the rest of us had snooze or helped prepare the chicken potjie and freshly made pot bread we were to tuck into that night. We even braaied marshmallows on the fire and made smores. It was a busy but exciting Saturday.

Sunday we all woke up with heavy hearts as we realised our little getaway was coming to an end. We indulged in some wishful thinking by imagining phoning our mentor and to telling her we were sick and unable to be at work the next day.

What this meant to each person:

We connected with each on a level other than just work. This weekend created a sense of belonging in each of us, that we are part of a family. It created trust in each other. We were all just happy friends having a good time together. It gave us time to catch our breath and enjoy the beauty of nature. We learned new life skills (pitching tents) and came back feeling refreshed and positive. We are already planning next year’s camping trip.

River Lodge 1 Care Partners.

Annastasia’s legacy lives on in the hearts of many

Annastasia Thula with her only surviving child, Noli Mboweni, and grandson Dumi.

Amazing woman has many stories to share

Annastasia Thula fills a room. Although her memory is not what it once was, the 83-year-old is larger than life. She has a way of drawing a person in with one look and leaving little doubt that she is a woman with a past as powerful as her presence.

A resident of Rand Aid’s Ron Smith Care Centre in Lyndhurst, Annastasia lived next door to Winne Mandela in her younger years, and later was Nelson Mandela’s neighbour in Houghton. Both relationships were close. It was Winnie who introduced Annastasia to her future husband, Gibson Thula, popularly referred to as ‘Mr Gautrain’; and Madiba was a beloved second grandfather to her grandchildren.

But Winnie and Madiba are only one part of Annastasia’s story, which establishes her as a legend in her own right.

After a meaningful career as a nurse, Annastasia committed her ‘retirement’ to uplifting her community. It was the 1980s and South Africa was in turmoil. A state of emergency was in place and the apartheid government used brutal methods to suppress the majority of South Africa’s population.

Thousands of people were arrested during this period of time and many were tortured or killed. Education was in shambles.

Then a Soweto resident, Annastasia and fellow community volunteer Agnes Gcwabaza decided they could not sit back and watch their community destruct without doing what they could to alleviate the suffering.

They joined forces to form the Bophelo Impilo Community Association and inspired other local women to get involved. The result was a range of upliftment programmes, including crèches, saving schemes, food garden programmes and support for the aged.

“There is no reason to be hungry when you have hands that work and soil to plant in,” maintains Annastasia.

Teen pregnancies was one of the reasons why Annastasia and Anges started crèches. 

“Community women were trained in early childhood development and basic hygiene and young moms could go back to school, knowing their little ones were in safe hands,” says Annastasia.

Annastasia is passionate about education, believing it is the key to changing one’s path, and so in the late 80s, she was again compelled to act, this time against the sub-standard education offered in black schools. Many teachers were not qualified, and Afrikaans and English were the mandatory languages of instruction. Youngsters were refusing to go to school and growing increasingly militant. Many young girls were falling pregnant and forsaking their education because of ostracisation.

Anastasia and Agnes’ response was to start the Bophelo Impilo Private School in 1989. It was initially housed in St Margaret Church in Diepkloof but was given an old school building in Mayfair in 1991. Today, nearly 30 years later, the school upholds its founding tradition of challenging its learners to rise above their circumstances. The school has boarding facilities, a successful soccer academy and maintains good academic results.

Lawyers, doctors, teachers, leaders and entrepreneurs are proud Bophelo Impilo alma maters.

Challenging childhood

Annastasia grew up in difficult conditions. Her mother was a domestic worker struggling to raise her children on her own and Annastasia had to balance her studies with the responsibility of helping her mother make ends meet.

While still in primary school, Annastasia was taught how to brew African beer, which was sold to supplement the family’s income. The practice was illegal, however, and the brewing drums had to be hidden in a large outside coal and wood box. This clever concealment was no match for Annastasia’s honesty, however. One day, when she was alone at home, the police arrived and started searching for the beer. Little Annastasia helpfully told them they were looking in the wrong place, before leading them to the coal box.

The contents of the drum were emptied out and as a result, the family face a harder few weeks than normal.

“My grandmother was not educated,” shares Annastasia’s only surviving child, Noli Mboweni. “However, she was very determined to do the best she could for her family and was adamant that they all be properly educated. It was her dream to see her children work in an office, with a pen behind the ear, which in those days was a symbol of success.”
Her vision paid off, with her descendants all well-educated and successful.

Noli studied teaching and worked as a science educator for 10 years before venturing into the world of business. To supplement her BA in education, she enrolled for a Management Advancement Programme at the Wits Business School. This was followed by a number of short courses, including corporate governance at the Gordon Institute of Business Science and various project management courses offered by the Institute of Directors in Southern Africa.

Today, she is regarded as one of the country’s inspirational women and has achieved great success in the corporate environment. Among others, she is a shareholder in Bombela, the consortium that developed the Gautrain; is the CEO of Vela International and a director and shareholder in Sun International’s Afrisun Gauteng.

Just like her mother, she is a community builder and runs a mentorship programme for women on balancing work and family and maintains a bursary fund.

The children of Noli and medical doctor husband Lincoln – Dumi, Vela and Nene – are doing equally well, one as a doctor, like her father, and the other two in the corporate world. A great-granddaughter who lives in London is the youngest of Annastasia’s clan.

Madiba, Winnie and the Thulas

Noli shares how intertwined her parents’ lives were with Winnie and Nelson. “My Dad and Winnie were social workers. Winnie had a boyfriend but Nelson had his eye on her and so my Dad arranged that Nelson, who had a car, would pick Winnie up and give her a lift. Their relationship developed from there.”

Winnie returned the favour, setting out to fix Gibson up with her trainee nurse neighbour, a young Annastasia. Her matchmaking worked well and Gibson and Annastasia enjoyed a wonderful life together until his death in 2016.

When Noli was married 29 years ago, it was Winnie who received lobola on behalf of the family and when Velani, one of the Thula’s children, was shot by the apartheid police in 1988, at the age of 21, Winnie played a pivotal role in the funeral.

Later in their life, Annastasia and Gibson were happy neighbours to Madiba in Houghton and the two sets of grandchildren spent much of their time playing at Tata Madiba’s house.
Noli remembers a time when her children went next door for a playdate and when she went to fetch them, they ran upstairs and hid from their mother in Madiba’s bedroom. He was president of South Africa at the time, and they instinctively knew that Noli would not follow them into the president’s most private space.

She went home. A little later, Mandela himself phoned Noli and asked that she bring pajamas over. “But Tata, we had not planned on a sleepover,” she argued, to which he replied, “Bring over their PJs or I will go to Killarney to buy some. He always got his way,” she chuckles.

She recalls another time when her son Velani and one of Nelson Mandela’s grandsons (the son of daughter Zindzi) were having a joint 10th birthday party at McDonald’s Cresta. Mandela was in Cape Town for Parliament but insisted that he would fly home in time to attend.

“We had a group of 60 very excited children waiting for Tata to arrive, so we could start. When he arrived at Wonderboom, his bodyguard phoned to say that they were on their way. The estimated time of arrival came and went, with Madiba not arriving. Eventually we phoned the bodyguard and asked what the delay was,” recalls Noli.

It turned out Madiba was indeed there, but outside interacting with all McDonald’s young customers. “He was signing autographs, kissing babies and posing for photos while we were being driven crazy by a roomful of children!”

Her last memory of Madiba is bittersweet. “He was being cared for at home by a team of doctors and nurses and heard that my son Velani – by then all grown up – would be visiting.

“I had an important business meeting to attend but collected Velani and drove him to Madiba’s house. A hospital bed had been placed under a tree in his garden and he was sitting on the edge of it, as ramrod straight as ever. When I hugged him hello, he pointed at my car key and said, ‘I see you are driving a Mercedes’.

“He then asked to see the key. He took it and promptly put it in his pocket, all the while chatting to Velani. Eventually I was desperately late but did not know how to retrieve my key.
“Then Mike, one of his favourite bodyguards, whispered to me, ‘You know you have been hijacked, right? Madiba heard that you had to leave, and he purposely took your key’.

“Two hours later, it was time for Madiba to receive medical treatment and I managed to leave. Two days later, he passed away. In retrospect, I am so blessed to have spent that time with him in his last days.”

Noli attributes much of her success to her amazing mom, who remains a powerful force in the family.

When Noli and grandson Dumi arrived at Ron Smith Care Centre for an unscheduled visit one afternoon in August, Annastasia’s already animated face lit up even more. Beautifully made up, with her face virtually unlined and a smile never far, it is easy to see why Annastasia has had such a great impact on her family and community.

She speaks with great conviction and within the shortest time of meeting her, it is evident that her life has been guided by her faith, her family and her unwavering desire to make a difference. “She is a force of nature,” says Noli.

Snapshots of Annastasia's life - both happy and sad moments captured:

Tuesday, 9 October 2018

An explosion of colour as culture is showcased

The Heritage Day celebration was an explosion of colour, dance and fun.

Heritage Day celebration at Ron Smith Care Centre

On Friday, September 21, the community at Rand Aid’s Ron Smith Care Centre embraced their culture by dressing up in traditional outfits and participating in a wonderful Heritage Day celebration.

Part of the preparations for the day involved a ‘get to know your heritage’ exercise, whereby care centre staff engaged with the elders to discover their cultural background. They then helped to create a hat for each of the 150 residents, with the residents’ name, country and flag of his/her origin incorporated into the design. 

It was discovered that although most of the residents were born in South Africa, many come from diverse backgrounds and have roots in Italy, Portugal, Germany, France, Poland, Netherlands, Lithuania, Latvia, Indonesia, England, Scotland, Ireland, Isle of Man, China, Canada, Israel, Namibia, Egypt, Zimbabwe or Zambia, giving the whole event  a universal feel. In addition, colourful flags from all over the world were made in the OT Activity Centre. They were used as centrepieces for the gaily decorated tables, and as bunting to decorate the lapas and gazebos in the beautiful Woodlands garden where the event was held.

The residents and staff gathered in their numbers to celebrate the richness and diversity of cultures represented at the care centre. The celebrations began with a riot of colour as various staff from housekeeping, nursing, kitchen and garden services presented a programme of traditional dances representing the Zulu, Xhosa, Venda, Tsonga, and Shangaan tribes. The staff also performed an Israeli folk dance called Nigun Atik and a Scarf Dance to a Strauss Viennese Waltz. At a certain point in the programme, the dancers scattered into the audience and moved joyously to the music with the elders, which brought smiles of delight and laughter.

After enjoying the outdoor entertainment, and with the smell of braaied meat wafting through the air, everyone had managed to work up a hearty appetite! The famous ‘Naked Chefs’ from Rand Aid’s Inyoni Creek had very kindly come along to braai hamburgers for some 300 plus people (residents and staff), and these were hungrily enjoyed by all. A variety of condiments were available to ‘build your own burger’, which was quite fun. Pap and gravy, Greek salad and carrot and pineapple salad were also on offer, with Eskimo Pies rounding off the delicious alfresco meal.

Debbie Christen, Manager: Recreational Programmes commented: “Music, dance and movement have a way of bringing people together and the whole day was filled with fun, joy, warmth, connection, and a wonderful feeling of unity and harmony in diversity. This day of celebration was about embracing and sharing one’s cultural heritage and identity and was thoroughly enjoyed by all.”

Nicky Ponco and Helen Barlow-Jones enjoy a dance together.

Asnath Muthaki and Ellen Prinsloo.

Josephine Kew, Forget Khoza and Siyakubonga Nazo.

Noreen Ogilvie smiles beautifully during the Heritage Day celebration

Christine Kincaid-Smith and Lorna Topp having a good time!

The staff perform a traditional Israeli folk dance.

Residents and staff at Rand Aid’s Ron Smith Care Centre enjoy their Heritage Day celebration.

Tuesday, 18 September 2018

Young and old united through song

The sweet voices of young children filled Ron Smith Care Centre residents’ souls with joy on Wednesday, September 12. The Rand Aid-run care centre held its monthly Lotto Concert on the morning and the junior choir from the Holy Rosary School in Edenvale provided the entertainment, much to the delight of the audience.

Care centre celebrates everyday heroes

Caring is their super power

Ron Smith Care Centre staff members were eager participants in Casual Day on Friday, September 7, 2018.

The Rand Aid care centre in Lyndhurst has a wing dedicated to caring for people living with dementia and Alzheimer’s disease, and with Alzheimer’s South Africa one of the fundraising day’s official beneficiaries, they were more than happy to show their support of the work being done by the non-profit company.

The Gauteng office of Alzheimer’s South Africa is based at Elphin Lodge Complex, which includes the Ron Smith Care Centre.

This year’s Casual Day theme was ‘Be an everyday hero for people with disabilities’

Ron Smith Care Centre’s team members dressed up as super heroes and everyday heroes. “The fund-raising initiative created awareness of Alzheimer’s disease and gave recognition to the everyday heroes who give loving care to the elderly frail and to those living with the disease,” says Debbie Christen, Rand Aid’s manager: recreational programmes.

 Ron Smith Care Centre’s staff members dressed up as super heroes and everyday heroes on Casual Day.

Thursday, 6 September 2018

Children shoot arrow through elders’ hearts

The children from Arrows Home School with their mothers and a few of the elders who enjoyed the show. Front row, left to right, are residents: Ria Standing, Jill Jones, Colleen Blowe and Eleanor Motsepe.

On September 4, 2018, the residents and staff of Rand Aid’s Ron Smith Care Centre welcomed spring with a lovely tea and delicious sweet treats. 

There was a wonderful selection of red velvet cake, banana loaf, Bar One cake and donuts. Also on offer were the  muffins which the residents had made in the OT Activity Centre, as their contribution to the tea.

The highlight of the morning, however, was the very special entertainment provided by the children from the Arrows Home School: Amber, Benjamin and Jasmine Banks; Shayna Berry; Ruth and Thomas Hicken; Aryc Holgate; Isabella and Jayden Strauss; and Nathan and Samuel Vrey.  

They recited poetry, sang songs, told jokes, did some dancing and performed in a musical play entitled, ‘A World is Washed’, which was based on the story of Noah’s Ark as found in Genesis 6-9 in the Holy Bible.

The residents and staff were delighted by the young children, who ranged in age from three to nine years, and everyone remarked how cute, happy and joyful they were. 

All at the care centre would like to thank each and everyone one of them, their mothers who coached them and brought them along and the dads who worked behind the scenes, for the joy they brought to all. And special thanks to Susanna Banks –the ‘head mom’ and creator and director of the entertainment programme. Bravo! Well done!


Women’s Month Happy Hour celebration

Great women celebrated at Ron Smith Care Centre

 Women’s Month was joyously celebrated at Rand Aid’s Ron Smith Care Centre on 30 August at a Happy Hour event, with the theme of honouring inspirational women from the past and present. The hosts of the evening were the residents and staff who live and work on the Cedar Park wing of the care centre.

Wine, sherry, fruit punch and an assortment of delicious sweet and savoury snacks, including the cheese straws that the residents and staff had made earlier in the afternoon, were enjoyed by all and then it was time for the quiz contest. 

Earlier in the month, residents and staff were asked to make a list of women whom they admired and whom inspired them. Fifteen of these women were selected to have their pictures displayed on each team’s table at Happy Hour. The residents and staff were divided into teams and then participated in a quiz contest where they had to recognize and identify each of the inspirational women. Team Lisa’s 18-member group were the winners as they speedily came up with all the correct answers, although ‘Anne Frank’ and ‘Helen Suzman’ gave them a bit of a challenge!

The Cedar Park hosts then announced that they were going to present a little skit and dance. Although there are many women, past and present, who have made a contribution to society, the woman they wished to honour and celebrate was, Florence Nightingale, as most of the staff are involved in nursing care. Florence was known for saving the lives of thousands of people and for being the founder of modern nursing.

In 1854, the Crimean War broke out and Florence rounded up a team of 38 nurses to work in the field hospital in Crimea, to look after the soldiers who were dying from battle wounds, cold, hunger and disease.  She improved the filthy hospital conditions and provided clean water, fresh food and quality care. She was committed to the principle that ‘Every patient deserves a good nurse’. More than 100 years later, her birthday is still celebrated around the world as International Nurses Day.

This Women’s Day event was enjoyed by the whole care centre and had meaning for all. It gave everyone the opportunity to think about the strengths, abilities, and determination of women who have taken on leadership roles in society because of their compassion and caring for other people.

The Cedar Park staff cast of the Florence Nightingale skit with Debbie Christen (Rand Aid’s recreation manager): Angie Morrison, Penny Mthembu, Lisa Mtshali (Florence Nightingale), Hilda Mabaso, Lucy Kgafela, Noma Malevu, Christina Maluka and Cleo Makhanya.

A delighted resident, Irene Droste, is congratulated by Noma Malevu, Lucy Kgafela and Penny Mthembu for winning the Most Elegantly Dressed prize as voted by staff.

Some of the Cedar Park hosts with their guests.

Team Lisa won the quiz contest by being the first team to correctly identify the 15 inspirational women displayed at their table.

Erica Penney, Emily Thabang and Lorna Topp.

Gill Holliman.

Nora Dzivhani and Christine Kincaid-Smith.

Gordon Smith, Penny Mthembu and Joy Smith.

Ros Benjamin and Sharon Zaidman.

Halina Malujlo and Rosina Pretorius.

Josephine Kew, Leanie Bessinger and Peggy Roberts.

The table decorations with the pictures of inspirational women placed between the spring flowers.

Cecily Ryder.

Irene Nyadzane and Jane Hart-Davis.

Josephine Kew.

Edna van Rensburg, Eleanor Motsepe and Blessed Nyati.

Shirley Makwarela helps Christine Kincaid-Smith make the flower decorations for the Women’s Month Happy Hour.

Lisa Mtshali, Debbie Christen, Noma Malevu and Lucy Kgafela.

How low can you go?

Florence Nightingale cast celebrate Women’s Month with a  Scarf Dance.

Zabeth Zuhlsdorff and Anna Matlala.

Sheila Hawes and Gladys Rosenberg.

Molly Matroos, Nicky Ponco, Knowledge Ngobene and Evelyn Shilubane.

Thelma Radmore and Laurentia Jooste.

Cedar Park staff and friends get happy.

Irene Nyadzane and Leanie Bessinger.