Pauline Swaby-Wallace

Pauline Swaby-Wallace meeting the needs of new generations of older people

Bath Ethnic Minority Senior Citizens Association (known as BEMSCA) is based in the beautiful, peaceful grounds of Fairfield House on the edge of Bath. They provide a day-care service for older people, also project workers to support Caribbean, Asian and Chinese members with language support in Bath & North East Somerset, as well as a space where older people can meet and socialise.

The organisation gives advice on a number of issues such as health, housing and welfare benefits and provides a wide range of activities such as arts and crafts, Tai-chi, singing and trips out, and outreach visits to those isolated at home.

Pauline Swaby-Wallace, who lives in Bath, is the BEMSCA Project Coordinator and manages the day to day work of the charity, and she’s been involved with charitable and community work for almost 40 years. During this time, Pauline has met many different people and different organisations.

She was first introduced to Quartet almost ten years ago, when she made a grant application to help set up a project for mobility sessions. Those Tai-chi, flexercise, yoga and massage sessions continue today.

When we spoke to Pauline, she told us all about a beautiful quilt that the group had stitched, while sharing memories and learning new skills. This is the happy outcome of one of the more recent grants Quartet has awarded to BEMSCA, this time for their ‘Material Memory’ project. The quilt celebrates the 50th anniversary of the independence of Barbados in 2016, and it’s an impressive achievement for the group, but Pauline told us that many of those involved didn’t think that they could do it.

““With their poor eyesight, arthritic hands, and not knowing much about sewing, they thought it was beyond them.” As you can see from the image of the beautiful hand stitched quilt below, they were capable of more than they may have realised.

BEMSCA quilt
BEMSCA quilt

Touchingly, with the group’s confidence raised, ‘Material Memory’ has built on the success of this first group and is now working on a new quilt, with assistance of a Bath College tutor this time to celebrate the 25th anniversary of BEMSCA itself, due in 2018.

One of the things that surprised Pauline the most about working with us followed a visit we made to BEMSCA, to find out more about their work and the project that was being funded.  Pauline feels that “written words aren’t as good as seeing the real thing”, and she really appreciated that we also felt it was important to find out more about the project and who was benefitting from it.

Pauline and BEMSCA have seen many changes over the years – from a time when there was more infrastructure support for the third sector in Bath & North East Somerset, to the present day when the older members of our community have increased needs. Pauline and her team help the users of their services to stay mobile, understand any changes to their benefits, receive any language support they might need, and they always make sure that there are vibrant group activities to engage the people that they support.

As Pauline says, this can range from simply offering somewhere to “come and listen to music” or providing a spot in the garden at Fairfield House for someone to tend to the plants and flowers.

Finally, we talk about the challenges to come, and Pauline is enthusiastic and optimistic about BEMSCA’s future.

““We’ll be there to meet the needs of new generations of older people. We know that they’ll be even more active in years to come, and we know the older people in our community need us now too”.

-Pauline Swaby-Wallace Project Coordinator for BEMSCA

Read our other #thirtylives stories here and watch the film we made to celebrate our anniversary on Youtube.