Sharing passions sparks conversation! Innovative Project Bonds Retirement Community – Saanich News

When Hanan started working on reception at Berwick House in Gordon Head, she felt immediately welcomed by residents and her colleagues, but found it difficult to break the ice and pass the friendly greetings.

“I wanted to be closer to the residents, to let them know me because I work with them every day,” she says.

Hanan has therefore signed up to run three seminars, as part of Berwick’s Passion Projects, where staff are encouraged to share their experiences and talents. Hanan held three seminars, the first sharing her personal story growing up in Syria, the second describing some of the traditions and celebrations of her home country, and the third sharing Syrian cuisine – with delicious samples!

“I was hoping maybe five residents would show up, but I was surprised to have about 30! Before my introductions, everyone had always been nice and said hello, but now we have longer conversations,” says Hanan.

Hanan, Berwick’s janitor, had hoped a handful of residents would show up for her presentation on Syria, but was surprised when around 30 people attended.

Hanan moved to Lebanon at the start of the war in Syria and came to Canada on a scholarship. Part of his family is still in Lebanon, where life is tumultuous.

“The people are so supportive. They ask about my family every day and tell me they are praying for me and my family. It was the icebreaker – there is no more “ice”.

Passion projects are part of The Berwick Way

“Each Berwick community is blessed with amazing people of varying ages and backgrounds. Part of The Berwick Way encourages willing staff members to share their skills, talents, culture and experiences with colleagues and residents,” says Kathy Ajas, Community Relations Manager at Berwick House.

Across town, in Berwick Royal Oak, many more staff have embraced Passion Projects.

  • Spenser and Jasper are among the talented dining hall staff and play guitar for the residents alongside Cohen on fiddle.
  • Cindy, Resident Services Manager at Berwick Royal Oak, recently led a fun jewelry-making workshop.
  • Margo, the BAT (Berwick About Town) car driver, shared her passion by leading a flower arrangement workshop.
  • The housekeeping manager, Marco, gave a wonderful presentation about his childhood in Mexico City. “Our residents loved knowing how close Marco is to his family and how he phones his mother every day,” said Kathy McAree, community relations manager at Berwick Royal Oak.
  • For International Women’s Day, Diana from Active Living hosted a presentation on amazing women who have influenced our lives.
  • Geoff, maintenance manager at Berwick Royal Oak, fancies himself a bit of a beer lover. Residents love being guided through fun beer tastings by Geoff at The Shield & Dragon pub.
  • Kathy, Community Relations Manager, has had wine training and led formal wine tastings. She also shared a presentation about her very personal experience with medical assistance in dying (MAID) after her father made the choice to die with dignity.
  • Daniela, a new Active Living employee, is looking forward to giving a presentation about her home country, Lithuania.
Community Relations Manager Kathy McAree (left) leads a wine tasting with residents of Berwick Royal Oak.  Photos by Jochen Bocksnick

Community Relations Manager Kathy McAree (left) leads a wine tasting with residents of Berwick Royal Oak. Photos by Jochen Bocksnick

“I love that Berwick encourages us to share who we are with residents,” McAree says. “What we call The Berwick Way is something I have never experienced with any other employer. Berwick really cares about their employees and this is one of the many ways they show it to us.

Berwick’s retirement communities are both local and family-friendly, offering flexible, upscale, and affordable senior living options in a caring community. For more information on Berwick House, contact Kathy Ajas at 250 853-5492. For more information on Berwick Royal Oak, contact Kathy McAree at 250 419-4012.

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