An insight into the work and origins of Christian Care Homes
“It is better to reach out and rescue the ones closest to you than to over stretch trying to rescue the ones you can never reach.”
In the summer of 1982 a young nurse, Jocelyn Bienvenu, affectionately known as Mico, was given a very clear vision concerning the needs and welfare of elderly people. His calling was to establish a residential home where the aged could be cared for in a loving Christian environment. His vision was to provide support to people of all faiths, and indeed to those with no faith at all, the emphasis being on the care given not on the beliefs of those receiving it. His aims were to promote:
- Independence, Choice, Respect, Privacy and Dignity.
- A place of shelter and protection with food, warmth and water.
- Good relationships based on true love through our caring and Christian attitude.
- A sense of esteem and personal worth.
- Social and medical care tailored to each individual’s care need.
- Spiritual guidance and counselling.
These aims now constitute Christian Care Homes statement of care.
Feeling compelled to begin somewhere, Mico opened a Senior Citizens Club, in 1984, whilst continuing to research the possibility of establishing a local permanent residential home. A few years later, his efforts were rewarded when the Norwegian Seamen’s Mission, in Stanford le Hope, became surplus to requirement and was subsequently closed. The building was offered for sale, purchased and transformed into the first of the Christian Care Homes. It was given the name of Oak House and ten residents moved in during 1989. Shortly after, three extra rooms were built bringing the number to thirteen. In addition, day care facilities were introduced to give the elderly, still living in the community, support and quality time in the company of other people. Oak House, being fully functional, was officially opened in 1990.
Before too long, an opportunity arose to open a second home in Basildon. The property previously occupied by Abbey Field, who also care for the elderly, became vacant. Having already been used for residential purposes, it was decided that the building be purchased and refurbished, reopening as Beech House in 1992. Initially, fourteen people were able to move in. A second phase, which included the construction of extra bedrooms, bathrooms, two conservatories, a designated dining area, addition lounge and larger kitchens, provided fourteen more places bringing the present total total to twenty-eight. Beech House was then formally opened on the 10th July 1998.
With a name like Bienvenu one should not be surprised that Mico originates from the island of Mauritius. As early as 1992, while visiting relatives there, he began to feel that something should be done for the aged living on the island. The desire to provide them with care and support became a reality when St. Paul’s House was built. This is the largest of the Christian Care Homes, having twenty-four double and sixteen single bedrooms.
This spacious, modern building, officially opened on the 5th April 2008, boasts en-suite facilities in all bedrooms, open colonnades with ornate tables and chairs where the residents can relax surrounded by potted palms, an open sun roof with views of the surrounding countryside and a covered roof area suitable for group activities and the occasional party. St. Paul’s also has it’s own Chapel which provides a peaceful place when people want to be alone with their thoughts. Since Mauritius is situated in the Tropic of Capricorn, and enjoys average temperatures of 30 degrees C November to April and 24 degrees C May to September, the central garden and the gardens surrounding the house are full of exotic plants. They even grow their own bananas.
It is said that “from small acorns large oaks grow”. So it was, not with Oak House but, with Cedar House, the most recent addition to Christian Care Homes.
Redburn Lodge, Stanford le Hope, had been a privately run home for many years. The building, a converted detached house, provided accommodation for seven people but eventually closed. It was purchased by Christian Care Homes who reopened it, as Cedar House, circa 2000.
A few years later, the property next door to Cedar House was acquired and used as staff accommodation. It was then agreed by the Trustees that, subject to planning permission, the two properties might be demolished to make way for one larger home. Plans were submitted and work, to rebuild, began in 2011. The new Cedar House was finished and opened it’s doors to the first residents in 2012.
The two storey front face of the building conceals a large green area surrounded on three sides by a mixture of single storey bedrooms, a conservatory, and a glass fronted dining room, all with views of the magnificent pagoda which is the central feature of the garden. Residents are able to relax in one of the two comfortable lounges or, weather permitting, within the safety of the secure gardens. Cedar House is home to thirty-three people, residing in thirty-one single rooms and one double.
The work of Christian Care Homes has always been associated with care of the elderly. However, during a visit to Mauritius in June 2011, to attend Trustee’s meetings, Mico was approached by a business man who was deeply concerned about the welfare of children within some of the ethnic groups living on the island. A visit to one such group left him shocked and distressed, with a desire to do something to help them.
As a result, opportunities are being sort to create a centre where parents can receive advice to better support their families, and where their children can benefit from:
- Welfare in the form of food, clothing and instruction on hygiene skills.
- Education which, for them, will be a way out of their poverty.
- Health care, so often out of reach of the poor.
Given the motivation to access these, and aided and nurtured by encouragement and support from us, these children and their families may find hope for the future and experience some joy living in the present.
In conclusion, Christian Care Homes is a God inspired charitable organisation which provides the highest quality of care imaginable, thanks to a dedicated staff led by Mico Bienvenue, Director and founder member of the Trust, plus a team of people who work voluntarily in the homes, organise fund raising and those who regularly visit just to chat with the old folk.