Women of Wandsworth Prove Their Worth During Pandemic

Battersea-based group of mums provide invaluable support to elderly neighbours

Senia Dedic, founder of Women of Wandsworth
Senia Dedić, founder of Women of Wandsworth. Picture: Bijal Shah from BCaptures photos

September 7, 2020

An amazing group of mums in South West London is preparing to celebrate ten years of helping their elderly neighbours, including through the darkest times of the coronavirus pandemic.

Senia Dedić is the founder and chair of Women of Wandsworth, a Battersea-based community group that helps to run activities for residents.

Ten years ago she helped to set up an inter-generational project to connect residents and combat loneliness through a lunch club.

“There are mothers from abroad and also mothers from England but whose parents are somewhere else, not in London. The children are missing the grandparents, they didn’t have any exposure to elderly people, they didn’t mingle with them,” she said.

“Many elderly people in the lodges also didn’t have any grandchildren visiting them, because they were outside of London or abroad or didn’t have any.”

Over the years members of the group have organised a number of parties and activities, and have even visited neighbours in hospital or attended their funerals when no-one else was around.

“When Covid struck in March we were due to have lunch, which we organise for them fortnightly. For the last ten years we haven’t missed one. But we were told they were all self-isolating and couldn’t even come down into the hall where we usually have lunch together,” said Senia.

“They are stuck in their little flats. We just left food for them there in the hall to be delivered up to the rooms,” said Senia.

“We promised not to leave them and that we would deliver food to them every week because they couldn’t get to the shops, some of them were ill, some didn’t have family to visit them, so our food was the only thing they were getting,” she said.

But Senia admits that the sight of empty shelves at the beginning of the pandemic made her really worried.

“I immediately had a flashback to the first days of the Bosnian war because I come from Bosnia and Herzegovina and that’s exactly what happened in ’92 in my country.

“The shelves got empty within days and the saddest thing was there was no more food coming into Bosnia after that. The war started and that was it. I immediately thought, ‘oh no, here we go, there’s another war coming up’.”

“I immediately called the big local organisations and asked them what they were doing as support to help us prepare and cook for people and I gave them a list of things that should be done, such as making sure only one set of volunteers were going out.

“I immediately thought ‘this is going to be the worst’. I escaped from one hell, and hell is just following me. But luckily it didn’t happen that way, we recovered and were able to actually do this support for the elderly, and hopefully we don’t get this second wave soon. But if we do we are prepared. We have a plan now.

“Whatever happens we will prevail,” she said.

In recent weeks Senia and the team have even been able to have a chat with some of the elderly residents while they drop off their food parcels.

“We knocked on doors just to see how they were, and soon they all open out and have a chat. There was a party in the corridor,” she joked.

“It was so lovely. They were giggling and laughing with each other. It was nice to see they were well. The best success was that not only we fed them, but nobody died. We were really worried about them.”

One sheltered housing resident, Heather Taylor, said she has loved eating the curries made by Senia.

“Very fortunately I got two so was able to freeze one for another time. Food made with so much love never fails,” she said.

She also loved the paper flowers made by the children to cheer them up.

Another resident, known as Janet, says she hasn’t been out of her flat in six weeks, and that the food deliveries provide a vital lifeline.

Brenda has been receiving food deliveries. Picture: WoW mums

Neighbour Alan said that even though he was able to go to the shop, he was unable to carry many of the heavy things. Many of the wardens at the sheltered housing units have written to the group to thank them for their support in lockdown. The team at John Kirk House in Battersea said they “really appreciated” the extra help. As lockdown now begins to ease Senia and the team are looking ahead to the yearly barbeque in September.

She’s hopeful they will be able to arrange a small gathering in the large gardens surrounding the accommodation and keep everyone socially distanced and wearing masks, but she says she will continue to watch government advice. “Otherwise we will be preparing nicer parcels with a bit of cake as well,” she said.

Summing up the benefits of the inter-generational project, she said: “The lovely thing is we learnt about Battersea more.

“We didn’t have a clue how it looked before. The elderly residents told us there were five cinemas in Battersea, now we don’t have any. They were turned into banks and flats, it was quite interesting to see the development of Battersea.

“In 2007 Battersea was still very much a deprived area, but now it has become the best area, even better than Chelsea, now we’ve got the American embassy and Battersea Power Station,” she said.

Sian Bayley -Local Democracy reporter