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Course helps raise spirits of Caribbean elders

PROGRAMME: (Back, left to right) Kings Heath community centre deputy manager Fern Hinds, course tutor Sonia Moor and ‘Ras’ Danny; (front row) Burchill Ellis, Elaine Babb and Lasleta Welsh.

A GROUP of Caribbean elders have been revisiting the stories and songs of their youth as part of a unique course to improve their wellbeing.

Led by tutor Sonia Moore, the Workers’ Educational Association’s Community Research for Better Health project has drawn on inspirational songs, poems and stories as part of a free 10-week programme.

Funded by the Big Lottery and supported by the University of Leicester’s Institute for Lifelong Learning, the elders, who were all in their seventies and eighties, even worked together to produce a poem called What is Life.

The poem included the lines: ‘Life is a journey with ups and downs, a roller coaster of thrills, excitement and frowns. Life tastes like coconut water, mellow and sweet, black ripened cherries delicious to eat.’

Moore said: “It was very important to link the themes of the old Bible stories with members of the group’s spiritual wellbeing, because they all know their Bible from childhood.

“It’s been wonderful to see some of the elders look forward to coming to each session and improving their mental health. I think we’ve all been on a journey together and gained a lot from it. We were all sad to see the course come to an end, but I hope to continue with a programme on Caribbean heritage to celebrate Jamaica’s 50th anniversary of independence later this year.”

Claude Tomlinson, 75, who is originally from St Catherine in Jamaica, has completed the course held at a day centre in Kings Heath.

He said: “At first I was reluctant to join in, but I became more and more interested as each week went by. I have kept my notes in a folder and have been able to share all the stories and poems with my grandchildren at home.”

Moore added: “Many of the elders have chronic conditions such as diabetes and high blood pressure, which impact on the quality of their lives. I think the course has helped them to forget their health problems and immerse themselves in the culture of their Caribbean homeland.”

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