Feed The Heath. The power of goodwill

Thursday 9th April 2020

After visiting James Sommerin on Wednesday afternoon, Thursday morning kicked off with a visit to Penylan in Cardiff. Having not lived in Cardiff for 7 years, I enjoyed pulling up to see Waterloo Tea Gardens still standing and the park out front looking stunning. Previous visits have resulted in an indulgence of peppermint tea and carrot cake but unfortunately current circumstances dictated the café be closed. Or is it closed? 

This story is so impressive on so many levels; it tells of goodwill, volunteering and the power of local business across different sectors pulling together for the greater good. Some 5 years ago, Kasim Ali, founder of Waterloo Tea Gardens, visited the University Hospital to see his Dad, who was unwell at the time. Kasim felt disappointed with the standard of food that was being provided to patients, and has felt passionately about working hard on an initiative alongside the Cardiff & Vale Health Charity to improve the quality of food provided to patients. He’s worked hard over the years to encourage change in the hospital. And then cue the Coronavirus crisis; early in the week commencing 30th March, Kasim launched the ‘Feed the Heath’ campaign, working with the C&V health charity to provide quality food to the healthcare staff at UHW. A ‘Go Fund me’ page and a week and a half later, the campaign has gone from producing 100 meals/day from one café to producing near 1,000 meals/day by a collaboration of around 20 restaurants and 10 other businesses across Cardiff. I saw Friday first hand the impact the quality food is having on staff (more of this in tomorrows blog). At the time of writing, donations to the site had topped £40,000; money that is used to purchase ingredients and cover the cost of packaging. Each restaurant and business is volunteering their time and trade for nothing. Just goodwill. I enjoyed meeting Kasim. A proper bloke who has understood our current predicament, stepped up to utilize his skill set and engineered a solution to help overcome the problem. The fact other restaurants have followed his lead and joined the campaign is a testament to his vision. 

As I approached Sian outside the main concourse during lunch hour, she was sitting down enjoying the sunshine with her colleagues, who had been busy all morning with their housekeeping duties. After an initial introduction, I was keen to understand the role of housekeepers and how they played their part in the NHS team. Her immediate reply shook me a little. ‘We’re the lowest paid ones Jame. We do the cleaning and stuff’. Her answer certainly took me by surprise and initially made me feel a little awkward. The only words I could fathom in that moment were ‘And what? Your role is equally as important as others in the hospital. I guess others can’t do their job if the place is stinking!’. On reflection, I could have used more appropriate wording, yet my message to Sian, I hope, came across crystal clear. She smiled and acknowledged, although I couldn’t help feel that she’s probably heard it all before and just nodded to be polite. I met with her colleagues, all lovely people. Some had worked for decades at the hospital, whereas others had been there only a few days. They told stories of how the seniors would teach the juniors. ‘See one, do one, teach one’. That was how it was done at medical school in my time. This was no different. They seemed a tight knit bunch that took huge pride in their work and enjoyed teaching each other the ropes. And rightly so. The hospital simply can’t function without an efficient housekeeping team. Full stop. Their work ensures patients and staff operate in an environment under the highest levels of hygiene. Critical work, indeed now more than ever before. 

I wandered over to Denbigh House in the far North East corner of the hospital to visit the Occupational Health team. I stood chatting with Nikki, Karen & Caroline in a narrow corridor on the 1st floor in what has become the now normal ‘2m apart’ setup. Their department works primarily to protect employees from the numerous risks that can arise at the workplace. Anyone working in healthcare will tell you they are the health ‘gate’ you must pass before starting work. When considering the huge surge in Cardiffs NHS recruitment over recent weeks, it’s not difficult to appreciate the volume of work that is now passing through these doors. Each new employee screened. Pages upon pages of paperwork and electronic documents. That work will likely continue for weeks, if not months. They’ve rolled their sleeves up and are tackling the workload head on; a huge effort. 

I walked back to my car via the Heath Sports and Social club, which has been turned into the ‘staff hub’, a base from which staff can collect food, relax and enjoy their breaks. A handful of nurses were sat outside tucking into their meals, smiling. Their food; The product of donations, taking initiative, goodwill and a collective desire to help. Class 

Stay safe


2 thoughts on “Feed The Heath. The power of goodwill

  1. Great reading how everyone there makes it all tick. Thanks for telling their stories and this one reminds me of the housekeeper’s response to JFK ( in NASA) “I’m helping to put a man on the moon”. Thanks to all involved 👏🏻🙏🏻

    Liked by 1 person

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