Meet Graham and Norman: Sacred Heart Mission’s dynamic duo

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by Sharon Lee

 

Graham Townsend and Norman Both have formed quite a bond since they each moved into our Grey St residential aged care community toward the end of last year. Their units are just down the hall from each other, but became better acquainted through a mutual interest in crossword puzzles.

“A few of us got together to do the crosswords in the paper and then Norman and I got reasonably close because I had to give him all the answers,“ Graham jokes.

“We get along really well. I don’t know why but we do,” says Norman.

As they got to know each other more, they realised they had even more in common. Each has struggled with alcoholism. Each lived in Darwin for a time, and they have many stories to share, although their paths never crossed while they were there. In fact they just missed each other.

In a feat of great timing, Norman left Darwin hours before Cyclone Tracy struck the city. Graham arrived three days later. The move proved to be a great turning point for him. He undertook a program to get off the booze, and through that, was given the opportunity to study a Bachelor of Social Work degree at Northern Territory University.

For about seven years, he put those skills to work with Darwin’s East Timorese refugee community, volunteering with St Vincent de Paul as a social worker.

“That was the best period of my life,” he says. “They were the most beautiful people. It was a pleasure to do that.”

Graham now brings that experience to his role as residents’ advocate at our Grey St residential aged care community. As per the job description, he speaks on residents’ behalf at monthly meetings, voicing their concerns and suggesting changes. Norman is a good sounding board for him in the role, and they bounce ideas off each other.

But Graham is taking the role of advocate to a new level. He and Norman have made it their mission to pay visits to fellow residents who find themselves in hospital.

“There’s nothing worse than being in hospital and being all alone, not knowing anyone. Having someone to talk to, that is the best medicine you can have,“ Graham says.

Over recent months, the dynamic duo say they have made dozens of visits, and they get as much out of it as those they visit, if not more.

Graham says he feels lucky to be part of our Grey St Community. “Without a doubt this is a great place to be.” He applauds the efforts of our staff, and Manager of Clinical Care, Margaret Thorpe, who he says knows everyone by name and has an open door policy.

For her part, Margaret Thorpe, is constantly amazed by the residents, 95 per cent of whom have a history of homelessness. She sees Graham and Norman’s friendship as incredible.

“For people who have been so disadvantaged to care so much for other people…You would imagine they would be intent on self care. But here they feel secure and loved, and they are able to reach out and love others,” she says.

 

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