Project Red Shirt shows the love at Inyoni Creek

Receptionist Carol Garnett, St Hannie Combrink, deputy manager Marinda Looyen and manager Jenny Tonkin in their red shirts.


A new initiative at Inyoni Creek is giving staff members the opportunity to find out more about the retirement village’s less social residents.

‘Residents’ is the broad term given to those men and women who call Inyoni Creek home, but each resident comes with their own history and faces their own challenges. Each resident is unique and their needs are unique too.

With 175 homes dotted around the Lyndhurst-based village, it is easy for less outgoing residents to become faceless names. The office staff are determined to change this, however, and have implemented ‘Project Red Shirt’.

Each month, manager Jenny Tonkin, deputy manager Marinda Looyen, village sister Hannie Combrink and receptionist Carol Garnett each choose a resident they do not know well and arrange to spend an hour with them, talking and learning more about the resident on a social level.

The project is in line with the Eden Alternative Philosophy that is being implemented across all Rand Aid Association retirement villages and care centres. The Eden Alternative is an international, non-profit organisation dedicated to creating quality of life for elders and their care partners. It takes into account that each elder is different and that a blanket approach to the care of elders does not create happy and fulfilled residents.

This philosophy encourages residents to direct their own lives and allows all staff members – not only management – and all residents to have a say in how their care centre is run so that the human spirit and not only the human body is cared for.

Sr Hannie is the driving force behind Project Red Shirt. Although as village sister she already visits all residents on a three-monthly cycle to assess their health and wellbeing, she decided that visits of a more social nature with some of the lesser known residents were called for. She drew her inspiration for the initiative from an Eden Alternative workshop she attended, which was hosted by Rand Aid for its staff members.

The Inyoni Creek project got off the ground in early February. Jenny chose to visit a 91-year-old woman. Despite the visit being unplanned, she was warmly received. “I approached her as she sat on her patio and we started chatting about the plants surrounding her. She then invited me for tea, which I accepted. I offered to help and she said I must sit down and she would do it. While I sat there enjoying the beautiful gardens, it gave me time to look at life through the eyes of a resident.

“She arrived a while later with tea and home-made date balls laid out on a tray. We chatted about her family and her life. It was really special and I was humbled by her hospitality.”

Carol chose to visit a resident who – like herself – had recently lost her husband. The women were able to talk about their loss and support each other.

“We all feel that both the resident and the staff member benefit from this programme and it is wonderful to take time out of our busy days to sit and listen and learn,” says Jenny.

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