Whilst their classmates were busy meeting and greeting ‘Glee’ star Damian McGinty to St. Cecilia’s College on Wednesday, year 11 pupils, Ayisha Healy and Rebecca Coul travelled across the city to stage a play for older people with dementia and Alzheimer’s in Sevenoaks Care Home in the Waterside.
Many of the older people at the centre worked in many of Derry’s shirt factories so as an early Christmas present to them all, the girls from St. Cecilia’s devised their own play about the iconic Tillie and Henderson’s shirt factory.
“I didn’t really know too much about Derry’s history with shirt making until we started working on our play for the older people,” said 14 year-old Ayisha.
Wednesday afternoon’s event was part of the C.O.P.E. (Certificate of Personal Effectiveness) project and St. Cecilia’s drama teacher, Miss. Elaine Kelly, said that she hoped that it would not be the last time the girls would be able to visit the older people.
“We first brought the girls out here in October time. The girls and the older people here really hit it off.
“Whilst this is event today is a continuation of our first visit in October, I would be hopeful that it would be the start of a relationship between Sevenoaks and St. Cecilia’s College.
“The girls get so much out of being here and I hope the older people enjoy it too - here’s hoping that we will be back here again and again over the coming months and year.
“Our girls were keen to listen to the stories of the older people and I think the older people really appreciated today’s play.”
The entertainment didn’t stop with the shirt factory play. The girls also performed songs and various dances for the older people too.
“I am really looking forward to waking up on Christmas morning and opening presents under the tree but taking part in the C.O.P.E. project has helped me to realise that there are people who will not have any of that - I know how lucky I am,” said 14 year-old Rebecca Coul.
“We wanted to come here today to build upon the success of a few months ago. We all got on with one another and we all really enjoyed listening to their stories. Some of the older people here have no one to share Christmas with but I am just glad that we are able to shine a little bit of light their way by putting on our play and performing our songs.”
Bronagh Mullan is a care-assistant in Sevenoaks and she said that whilst many of the older people in the centre suffer from dementia and Alzheimer’s, they enjoy it when the girls from St. Cecilia’s come to visit.
“The girls’ generosity and kindness is amazing,” said Bronagh.
“From what I hear, they have given up the chance of meeting Damian McGinty to be here - I think that’s amazing.
“All of the older people here have Alzheimer’s and dementia and there’s always a nice atmosphere.
“A lot of the older people here are always keen to talk about the past but in the same token it’s great for them to be entertained to a play about Tillie and Henderson’s and for them to listen to the girls singing and watch them dancing.”
Rebecca said she finds spending time with older people very rewarding and as a result she plans to volunteer to work with older people in the New Year.
“The older people here are great - we have developed such a great relationship with them all.
“As well as performing our play we have also read them a few poems and I think they all liked them.
“I find working with people who need help very rewarding and since taking part in the project I have started to think about volunteering.
“Christmas time for young people like me is all about looking forward to receiving presents and eating a nice dinner but I think it’s important that we remember that not everyone is as fortunate as we are.
“I also think it’s important to remember that if there’s something we can do to help other people, especially at this time of year, then we should do it.”