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4 October 2022

When a smile says it all

The old saying “actions speak louder than words” was certainly true this summer for the Ashwell girls who spent a week in Fatima, volunteering in a care home, Santa Casa de Misericordia. It didn’t matter that the girls could not speak Portuguese; you don’t need words to give a smile to the elderly residents and a helping hand to the staff. 

 Isabel (19), said: “It was hard to communicate at times. I speak Spanish so I could understand quite a lot. But we soon found that by smiling and miming we could make ourselves clear – even wearing PPE.”


 There was plenty to do for the Ashwell group.  They were on hand at mealtimes, helping to feed the residents who cannot manage on their own, perhaps due to a stroke. Organising afternoon tea was another act of service.

But real rewards come from doing things with people and not just for them.  In Fatima, activities such as playing chess and cards, singing and doing crafts, bridged the gap between the girls and the residents. Language and ability are not nearly as important as the companionship and warmth which come with sharing an activity.

Isabel lives in Ashwell and is in her second year studying occupational therapy at London South Bank University. The week in Fatima was particularly rewarding for her. “I gained useful experience and some professional insights during my time in Fatima. I took the opportunity to talk to the nurses in the care home about their work. It made me think that I might enjoy working in the geriatric sector. It certainly increased my respect for people who work with the elderly.”

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