Thursday, 10 December 2015

The floods

Guest post from Helen Hinvest, Chairman of Cumbria Cumberland Federation

Cumbria-Cumberland WI members are overwhelmed by the friendship and support offered by WI members throughout the country.  Just to know that fellow members are thinking about us is a great comfort during what has been, and continues to be, a very difficult time.

It has been raining for a week, but the heavy rain started on Saturday morning 5 December 2015.  It rained again all day yesterday 9 December, causing Patterdale/Glenridding to be flooded for a second time.

It was our Centenary Carol Service in Carlisle Cathedral in the afternoon and about 170 members battled through to the city to join us. One of our readers couldn't get through from Cockermouth but we drafted in Vice Chairman Joyce and she did a sterling job!  We had a specially formed WI Anniversary Singers group, who sang four lovely carols as part of the service, lead by Jean, WI choir leader.  They had been practising every week for 12 weeks and on Saturday five of them couldn't get to the Cathedral, but the rest of the Singers sounded wonderful!  One of the readers couldn't get home to West Cumbria and had to stay in Carlisle.  I acted as a Reception Centre for three of my own family members who couldn't get home to West Cumbria either!  Our honoured guest, Lord Lieutenant Mrs Claire Hensman, had a terrible journey from her home in the Kendal area to be with us, and an even worse journey home.

I've been in touch with affected WIs in the Federation since the floods on Saturday and they fortunately they are all safe and well.  Any members who have been affected/evacuated are being looked after by family and/or WI members;  in true WI spirit our members are helping their communities to recover.  Several WIs have both lost their WI meeting venues, including has my own WI here at Warwick Bridge, which is beside the River Eden - now a raging torrent.

I've been visiting two of my own WI members who've been flooded, they are so grateful for the WI friendship (they are both relatively new members).

We cancelled our scheduled Board of Trustees meeting;  it is simply unwise for our members to travel in to Carlisle and add to the chaotic traffic problems in the city.  I did get into the WI office yesterday, as did our Secretary who battled in despite huge traffic jams, and when I drove home along Warwick Road I could have cried; every house in darkness due to no electricity, and the pavements were covered with sodden carpets, mattresses, furniture, waiting to be collected by the Council.  Usually there is a beautifully decorated Christmas tree in the window of every house down Warwick Road at this time of the year.

I've had messages from WIs all over the country, too numerous to list here, and it is truly heartening, and the WI network of sympathy and support is incredible and awesome.  I’ve passed on these messages of support to all WI members I’ve spoken to this week, and will continue to do so.  They are all really grateful for fellow WI members’ kind thoughts and messages of support, including offers of practical help, holiday accommodation, and money.  It has brought home to us all what being part of the WI is all about, and it is very much appreciated.

So, thank you to every WI member for kind thoughts and sympathy.  We will assess what help, either practical or financial, our members will need over the next few weeks and months.  When the media interest has died down, we know that members and WIs will still need our support, and will be in a better position to identify their requirements, which is where we can step in and offer help. So if we don’t take you up on your offers of assistance immediately, I hope that you will understand, and hold on until we know what our members need.

Best wishes to all WI members for a happy Christmas and a successful 2016.

I can only end by saying a huge THANK YOU, which seems inadequate but is heartfelt.

Thursday, 3 December 2015

WI members knit for Dementia patients

Elderly patients with dementia or sight impairments in East Surrey Hospital’s Newdigate ward can now enjoy beautiful sensory blankets, thanks to the Aylesford & Eccles WI.

Sensory blankets – or comfort blankets – provide a wonderful source of visual, tactile and sensory stimulation for those with dementia or sight impairments. They are small pieces of fabric with additional items stitched on, with different shapes and textures.

Pam Trangmar, a physician’s associate working on the Newdigate Ward, explained: “People with dementia often have restless hands and like to have something to keep themselves occupied. When I first started work on the ward, I noticed that a high number of our guests, who are mainly elderly, found their change of environment very distressing. A nursing colleague recommended comfort blankets and I asked my mother, who used to be Aylesford & Eccles WI president, whether some of her WI wanted to help make some. They made some gorgeous ones, and our guests are enjoying them greatly.”

Mary Barton, a patient with some sight impairment on Woodland ward, said: “I really like my comfort blanket, the different patterns and pictures – it’s lovely to touch and makes me feel very calm.”

Michael Wilson, Chief Executive of Surrey and Sussex Healthcare NHS Trust, said “I’ve seen first-hand how our patients with dementia and sight impairments have felt comforted by these blankets. We are very grateful for the skill and time that the ladies of the Aylesford & Eccles Women’s Institute have provided to make these.”

Other WIs around the country have been doing similar activities, such as Jevington and Filching WI (below) in East Sussex. They made 40 of these “Twiddlemuffs” for residents living in dementia care homes in their area.

Ansdell and Fairhaven WI (Lancashire) also got involved and made 100 as part of their Centenary Projects. They have more information about the project on their website here:

If you and your WI would like to get involved, please get in touch with your local hospital and suggest the idea to them.