Real Lives

The Purple Hearts of Burnham on Sea

Don’t know about you, but I’m old enough to remember all those familiar newspaper headlines: Foreigners Coming Here and Taking Our Jobs, blah-di-blah, and most often at the time they’d be about people from Poland. Of course there are still those who think this way and it’s to them I dedicate the following article…

16 years ago, Barbara Kaczorowska and her husband left Poland to see what else was out there in the world. Graduates from medical school and only 23 years old, they arrived in the UK with a future unwritten.

Barbara’s father in law happened to be living at the time in the Somerset town of Burnham-on-Sea and so they arrived there with plans to stay for a couple of months.

They’re still there and this is what they did:

For the first six years, they set about forming roots – beginning their new lives. Barbara started as a Care Assistant in a care home for three years, then moving out to domiciliary care, completing NVQ Levels 3 and 5 while building up to Registered Manager. Plus they had three children along the way.

So good so far, but what made this Polish couple decide to go it alone and set up Neighbourhood Care?

“My husband had the idea of doing this for ourselves rather than for someone else and try to make it the best company it can be. We were only 28 then! When we first opened ten years ago, the goal was always to go the extra mile – to make a difference and be different to other agencies. We registered with CQC and had the interview in our living room!”

And so with very hard work, seven days per week for years, the Kaczorowskas slowly built up the company to how it is now. They currently have 30 staff for 75 to 80 clients, and cover a small area because there are more than enough elderly people requiring care in Burnham-on-Sea. It’s of vital importance to Barbara that the company is always seeking out new ways to engage customers and staff – to stay always dynamic and forward-moving:

“Every week we pull a name from the hat for our Make a Customer Smile day and do something special with that person to make them smile. We took one lady to the hairdresser and one to the pub as she was desperate to go given lockdown! We gave a blanket as a present for another and my Deputy Manager got tickets to a local cricket match for a gentleman whose dementia is very advanced and the only thing he actually enjoys now is to watch cricket. He was so happy.”

And last Valentine’s Day, Barbara organised lunch for all their customers. She rented out a local social club venue and arranged transport for everyone. They provided lunch, coffee and cakes so that everyone could have time with other people in similar circumstances. As you might imagine, they really enjoyed themselves and made new friends.

But going further hasn’t stopped there: having cared for a 40 year old man during the last three months of his life in the run up to Christmas – a man leaving behind a wife and children with the youngest being under a year old – the team collected donations, and from their own pockets, bought Christmas presents for the wife and children:

“The team bonded very quickly with him and the family; the girls tried to make it as supportive as possible for them all and it was very hard as you might imagine given his age – going through that and leaving those children behind all the while knowing there is nothing you can do about it – it’s truly heartbreaking. The presents were toys, clothes, books and beauty products for his wife. We just dropped them off and didn’t make a fuss at all as we didn’t want it to become about us. Such young children – it breaks my heart every time I think about it”

Barabara’s voice trails off slightly and I hit the future button:

It’s evident the Kaczorowskas, as a young Polish couple, have had to work twice as hard to prove themselves in a small community – to convince people that they are there to stay and that the bright purple uniforms are the sign of upstanding, heart-centred care:

“As long as I have really happy customers and lovely staff, I’m more than content. To see how proud they are working for Neighbourhood Care, that’s the main reward. Knowing they have the same aims and embrace our philosophy – it’s great to see they’re proud to wear the purple uniform and be part of The Purple Team…we are Team Purple. It’s never good enough just to tick the boxes.”

STOP PRESS: Young Polish couple settles in the UK bringing with them ambition, drive, intelligence, care and compassion. I’ll buy that newspaper.

Debra Mehta

 

Edel Harris

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