At the height of the Second World War in London, Jackie West joined the Women’s Royal Naval Service, known as WRENS. It was 1944 and she was just 18. Jackie was posted to Plymouth where she met and fell in love with her husband George, a marine. They were married that year.
Shortly after the wedding, George was sent on mission to find and return Australian Prisoners of War. He was gone for three years. When he finally knocked on the door, Jackie did not recognise him. In the end, the marriage proved to be a long-lasting match with Jackie and George being posted all over the UK and in Malta, Malaysia and Germany before they had a daughter and moved to Australia in search of more adventure.
Today Jackie, 87, lives in Darwin with her daughter Lesley. Each week, Jackie visits Frontier Services Respite Options for Senior Territorians (ROST) in Palmerston, a day-time respite service for carers of frail elderly people, and younger people with a disability.
Recently, ROST paid tribute to Jackie’s incredible life story with a ‘This is Your Life’ style of presentation by staff member Joss Hunter, a fellow Brit.
It is part of a year-long project at ROST. Each month a staff member tells the life story of a different client at both their centres in Stuart Park and Palmerston. It is a creative way for the service and the staff to celebrate the lives of the older people in their care.
When Jackie’s story was told, it was a moving experience, not only for Jackie, but for her friends at ROST and the staff who care for her each week.
“We all learnt amazing new things about Jackie and her life,” said ROST Coordinator Jane McQuade. “During the presentation, photos from Jackie’s life were passed around, including one of her performing the can-can! She was an entertainer at one stage of her life, and she had an amazing set of legs!”
The presentation followed Jackie’s life story from her wedding day to her life in Australia and moving to Darwin in 2008. The day took on a British theme with a tiered cake stand filled with lamingtons and shortbread.
“You could see the pride on Jackie’s face; there was a lot of emotion at one stage. Everyone applauded at the end, and Jackie was presented with her story in a special folder.”
Mrs Quade said the “This is Your Life” project was a wonderful way to learn more about the clients.
“Suddenly, you see the person, not just as a person who needs care, but who they have been throughout their life, and who they still are. The staff learn so much about them, and it opens up so many different areas in how we care for them.”
“The clients like talking about the past. So far, they have loved it.” The ROST staff have embraced the project. Each staff member selects a client’s story to tell and puts together the presentation, photos and folder.