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Animal loving care home residents adopt creatures great and small

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Pendine Park staff who are raising money for Chester Zoo; Penguin lover Rowena Roberts with Gerry Humphreys . Picture Mandy Jones

A care home is adopting a giraffe, an elephant, a jaguar and a penguin as part of the fund-raising campaign to support Chester Zoo.

The kind-hearted residents and staff at Pendine Park Hillbury care home in Wrexham were inspired to help after hearing about the devastating losses suffered by the zoo as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic.

In normal times the zoo is a popular destination for the animal-loving residents.

The home organises monthly visits for people with dementia to the attraction’s Memory Café in the Bembe Coffee Shop by the main entrance

The zoo has now reopened but for safety reasons it can only admit 3,000 visitors per day compared with up to 12,000 before coronavirus.

Hillbury manager Cindy Clutton explained they wanted to repay the animal charity  by raising funds to adopt some of the animals.

Cindy said: ““The idea behind the Memory Café is that people living with dementia, their families, friends and carers can meet up in the unique zoo setting to enjoy a brew and a chat. The events were free and our residents always enjoyed their trips there and hearing all about the zoo.

“For many it was a chance to rekindle some memories and many of our residents got so excited going to the zoo. It was a fantastic service and we all hope, once we get back to the new normal, the memory cafe can resume.”

She added: “We just thought that as Chester Zoo supported us so well we wanted to repay the debt of gratitude by raising what we could to help the zoo get through financial problems of the Covid-19 crisis.”

“We have four units within Hillbury House and decided each unit will adopt a different animal or species. We have decided on adopting a giraffe, elephant, jaguar and penguin.

“We were voting on which animals we should adopt but, for her own reasons, one of our care practitioners, Rowena Roberts, is mad about penguins and donated £45 of her own money to make sure we adopted a penguin for one of the units.”

According to Rowena, her fascination with penguins stems from her earliest childhood memory.

Rowena, 37, said: “I was only three and my dad, who was in the Royal Welch Fusiliers, was away in the Falklands. When he came home, he brought me a life-sized fluffy penguin.

“I loved that penguin and it went everywhere with me, I used to sit on it, sleep with it and play with it constantly.

“I think that started a life-long fascination with penguins. My house, which I share with my partner, is full of penguins. There’s pictures, ornaments or other paraphernalia in every room, I’m obsessed!

“Dad served for 21 years with the Royal Welch Fusiliers and my younger brother also served for 12 years but had to come out due to a medical condition. Dad and mum still live quite close-by and it’s dad I have to thank for me p-p-p-picking up my penguin obsession!”

Rowena, who has worked as a care practitioner at Hillbury for the past 12 years says she really enjoys her job.

She said: “I work with the moist amazing team and as far as I’m concerned the residents are my extended family. In fact, I see more of the residents I care for than my own family.

“I call many of the residents gran or granddad. People living with dementia seem to respond so much better to that family approach and it can even help calm someone who has become a bit agitated down.

“I just see all my residents as really close friends. Living with dementia is never easy but if we can help residents living with the condition live fulfilled and happy lives then that’s what we must do.”

Enrichment and activities co-ordinator Gerry Humphries, who came up with the idea of raising funds to adopt Chester Zoo animals, has been delighted with the response.

She said: “I generally take residents to the Memory Café  at Chester Zoo and they are fantastic mornings out that residents always enjoy. It’s a lovely couple of hours out and a chance to sit, talk and think about memories.

“I just thought it was something we should do as a way of thanking the Zoo for the Memory Cafe. I put the idea to Cindy who was right behind it from the start and all the staff wanted to support it to.

“Rowena putting £45 up to adopt a penguin was a great start. We are now holding raffles and other fundraising events to cover the cost of the other adoptions and already have enough to adopt a giraffe.

“We are going to keep going until we have enough to cover the four animals we are adopting and we might even keep going and look to adopt even more. Hopefully, when the zoo’s memory cafe starts back up again we can take residents to see the animals we have adopted.”

Rhys Gregory
Editor of Wales247.co.uk

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