Femada Shamam has been with Tafta for 16 years. A qualified social worker, she now heads up the Operations Division, which is responsible for service delivery. We caught up with her during her busy day to find out what motivates and inspires her.
Q: What does your job entail?
A: A big part of what I do is to ensure that our work is relevant to the needs of older people. I spend time planning and researching models for service delivery. I also have to ensure that the people in my division are well equipped to carry out their jobs and add value to the lives of older people.
Q: What motivates you to do this work?
A: I get a sense of fulfillment knowing we are making the world a better place for people. It’s very idealistic, but I believe that in my own small way I can influence positive change.
Q: What is the hardest/most rewarding aspect of the job?
A: The hardest is having to work within inflexible bureaucracies whose ‘rules’ detract from the good work we can do. We spend so much time and energy trying to make the system more friendly to the needs of older people. It’s disheartening when after all our efforts, we still have vulnerable people who are suffering and without support. The most rewarding – when I see elderly people happy, engaged and full of enthusiasm . . . when an older person says their life is better because they are part of the Tafta family . . . that is rewarding. I also feel rewarded seeing my colleagues develop and excel in their work. I get joy from the success of my team – it motivates me to do even better.
Q: Is there a particular case that especially moved you?
A: When I started at Tafta there was a resident, Miss Green who was profoundly deaf – but we had found a way to communicate. I took her to the Primrose Service Centre early one morning to collect her pension. After tea, her health started deteriorating and one of the nurses called me to say that she was asking for me. I spent the next two hours at her side, holding her hand and comforting her as she took her last breaths. It was a shock to realise that some people are totally alone in the world and when they reach the end of their lives, they need someone to be with them. It also showed me how small acts of kindness can have a profound impact. I was 24 years old at the time and I remember crying all the way home for a lonely lady who had died and no one cared.
Q: How will these experiences impact on your own old age?
A: My entire attitude to ageing has changed. The biggest lesson is that being old does not mean that you stop enjoying all that life has to offer. While I understand the importance of saving financially, I am equally aware that I need to save ‘socially’ for my old age. I see the depression, the loneliness and the boredom and I don’t want to be there.