Robin Trust celebrates 25th anniversary

Robin Trust employees, from left, are registered nurse Lucia Zana, agency manager Rowena Samson, enrolled nurse Belinda Skippers, registered nurse Ina Breytenbach and care coordinator Vickey Adams in front.

It all started with the training of one person as a home-based carer, and today, 25 years later, the Robin Trust has grown into a nursing home and college.

The non-profit organisation, in Oude Molen Village, cares for patients who are in frail-care and who have dementia, and it also trains home-based caregivers and nurses.

It was started 25 years ago by registered nurse Leslie Macleod-Downes. When her daughter, Robyn, became seriously ill, Ms Macleod-Downes left her job as a Red Cross Hospital nurse to start training caregivers.

Robyn died at the age of 18 from leukodystrophy – a rare disease that affects the brain, peripheral nerves and the spinal cord.

The trust’s marketing manager, Stella Opperman, said Ms Macleod-Downes had started by training one person – the woman who had worked as a nanny in her home.

Today the trust has grown to
run a 13-week home-based carer course.

The course includes four weeks of theory and nine weeks of practical work.

Those carers can work in the trust’s current care ward which includes the Nest, a facility for frail-care and dementia residents.

They can also assist in the sub-acute facility that does patient physiotherapy, speech therapy and psychology.

The trust also has an agency that helps to find work for caregivers.

Thimna Speelman, from Nyanga, works at the Nest doing her practical training.

“I know the job now. I assist in nursing the residents that are living here,” she said.

The trust also prepares future nurses for workplace. It has a two-year bridging course for enrolled nurses, helping them to become registered nurses.

“An enrolled nurse can already work in hospitals and old-age homes, though does not have the status of a registered nurse, who can do more and have more authority,” said Ms Opperman.

Deneshree Naidoo-Gangan is doing her second year in her bridging course as an enrolled nurse and by next year March she will be a registered nurse.

“I am doing nursing duties like working with emergency trolleys, interacting with doctors, assisting with giving medication and doing patient rounds and checking if they are comfortable,” she said.

The Robin Trust is registered with the Department of Health and the South African Nursing Council.

Ms Macleod-Downes, left the Trust in 2004 and is now in Gloucestershire, England working for Walking Victory.

She said she had passed the baton to capable people who would be able to grow the trust.

“At the heart of Robin Trust is the belief that both the caregiver and the recipient of care must benefit equally from the programme. As the carers are unemployed or underemployed when they come to Robin Trust they are paid as employees,” said Ms Macleod-Downes.