Members Articles -The Story Of The Lady Rose Cathedral

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Barunga Homes is an aged care facility that is in the seaside town of Port Broughton, some 200km north of Adelaide in the mid-north of South Australia. The Lady Rose Cathedral is the brain child of the homes’ Lifestyle co-ordinator, Darren Robinson with fifteen of the residents and two volunteers.

Long-time resident, Anne Cavanagh suggested making a church for the recycled category in the local Christmas competition and it was up to Darren to design and build with the help of the volunteers and the residents.

The main body of the Cathedral is made up of over 10,000 of the little pill cups that the nursing staff use at the home to dispense the resident’s medications. The windows are made out of recycled wood and Perspex and other recycled materials found at the home. The pictures on the windows are painted with nail polish and deflated balloons form a pattern at the top of each of the windows. In the earlier stages of the project we worked on the project usually an hour and a half on Tuesday afternoons but as we drew nearer to completion, most days we did a little bit on it to get finished by the time of the Barunga Village AGM which was at the end of October, where it was to be featured on display for the first time. The whole Cathedral display took approx. five months to construct and much to everyone’s delight at the home, won the Best in Show prize at the 2013 competition.

Each of the residents were given specific tasks that matched their skills and abilities. While most of the residents participated in sticking the cups together, only some of the residents that still have good hand control were able to do the painting of the stained glass windows, while others stained the wooden frame of the cathedral and one lady in particular, Anne Cavanagh, placed over 4000 of the bricks into the moulds ready for me to come along and stick together. 7 of our Dementia wing residents took part as well. They were fantastic, always ready to help out. They were able to do most of the tasks asked of them with only the occasional prompting and reminding of what they were required or asked to do. Even the other residents that weren’t actively involved in the Cathedral’s construction would come along and watch the Lady Rose Cathedral taking shape.

It was called “The Lady Rose Cathedral”, in honour of all the ladies that helped in its construction and in particular resident Barbara Gould, (our English rose), who donated the crystal cross that adorns the Cathedral’s steeple. Barbara also donated another crystal cross for use on the castle.

Since the cathedral’s completion we have had many visitors from local and interstate who have come especially to see our wonderful Cathedral and we even received a congratulatory letter from Queen Elizabeth II.

In July of 2014, the Lady Rose Cathedral went on display at St Peter’s Cathedral in North Adelaide, with many local and international visitors signing our visitor’s book, our little cathedral proved to be very popular. It even appeared on TV with Channel 7 News doing a feature story on it and also was covered by ABC Radio on 2 separate occasions as well as appearing in various print media publications.

Even before the Lady Rose Cathedral was finished, the residents were asking what they were going to build next year. So following on from the success of the cathedral, St Nick’s Castle was the next project. Resident Milly Dawes asked if they could make Santa’s home at the North Pole. So it was up to Darren again to design and help construct the castle. This time he had 20 of the residents helping as well as many volunteers. It is made up of over 15 000 of the little pill cups this time. The residents stuck them all together and even plastered and painted the woodwork.

St. Nick’s Castle stands 7 foot tall and 6 feet wide at the base and was quite a sight at the Christmas Festival next to the cathedral from last year. This year the castle came second in the People’s Choice Awards and also received a special award from the judges for an amazing achievement.

Our volunteers were absolutely amazing. They work so well with the residents, at times just being there to offer assistance and prompting, while at other times sitting down next to the residents and sharing the workload together all working as a team
Both the Lady Rose Cathedral and St. Nick’s Castle were part of the Quality Improvement Program at the home with aim to encourage resident participation, creativity and a sense of belonging.

Anna, our 101 year old Austrian lady, even said to me that it reminded her of the church she used to visit as a little girl with her grandmother many years ago. Another resident, Roger said that he goes outside his room and sits in the lounge chair and just looks at the cathedral at night till he falls asleep.

Having completed both projects now, looking back, especially on the Lady Rose Cathedral, (the resident’s favourite), I couldn’t have asked for a more successful project. Almost by accident we came up with the idea of a little church which eventually turned into our cathedral. The residents were so enthralled by the construction and end result of the project, with many saying how wonderful it is, especially with the lights on at night.
Since the completion of both projects they have been on display at Barunga Village over the Christmas and New Year periods.

Unfortunately due to a lack of room, we are currently looking for a permanent home for both projects, with the blessing of the residents, of course.

Submitted by Darren Robinson

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