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Remembering people

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We are hugely saddened to have lost people who worked with us and people we supported due to COVID-19.

These people had such a huge impact on those around them. The first part of 2020 was a challenging time for everyone and to lose people to the virus has been incredibly hard on those who knew and loved them.

From campaigning for change, to brightening a room with their unique sense of humour, those who knew the people we lost express just how much they meant to them.

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Jaswinder Takkar – “Chatty, bubbly and greatly missed.”

Jaswinder moved into her new home in Greenford at the end of last year and brought with her a great energy. Her curiosity, conversation and zest for life lifted everyone’s spirits. In mid-March, Jaswinder was admitted to hospital with breathing difficulties. She tested positive for COVID-19 and very sadly died in early April.

Jaswinder was close to her family and talked a great deal about her parents and her brother Paul, who came to see her regularly, as well as her beloved cat Paddy. 

Jaswinder’s brother, Paul, recalls a lovely memory of his sister which showed her more mischievous side:

“She was quite cheeky and had a wicked sense of humour. I remember a few years ago I made a mistake while driving. She blurted out: “You plonker!” – which made everyone in the car burst out laughing. So she continued to call me a plonker for the rest of the trip, and many visits after!”

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Barbara West “Funny, charming and unpredictable.”

Fun-loving, funny, feisty and charming, Barbara West was someone we supported for many years. Sadly, she died in hospital at the height of the pandemic having been diagnosed with COVID-19.

Barbara lived her life to the full and was the life and soul of any party. Despite being unable to speak clearly or form sentences, she was someone who knew her own mind and how to get what she wanted. She was a keen drummer, loved bowling and was more than happy to take the microphone and sing at get-togethers.

In a broadcast about the impact of COVID-19 on people with learning disabilities and hospital admissions, the BBC featured a touching tribute to Barbara. Certitude CEO, Aisling Duffy, and her sister, Frances, talked about how difficult it was not being able to visit her sister in the hospital, where she was on her own for several weeks before she died.

Staff have so many fantastic memories of Barbara it was hard to pick out a story but House Manager, Indy remembered an unforgettable trip to the beach:

“We went to Littlehampton and she disappeared for five minutes, causing staff to go into panic mode. Then all of a sudden, she waltzed out of a nearby changing room in her bikini and sunglasses – she had worn the bikini under her clothes without anyone knowing! All the staff just laughed our heads off, this was Babs through and through – unpredictable and with a mind of her own.”

As somebody who had an impact on so many, Barbara will be hugely missed. We’ll leave the last word to her sister, Frances:

“One thing I wanted for Barb was to make sure people knew who she was, and that she was worthy of attention – unlike decades ago when people like her were kept out of the public eye – and she, like everyone else, deserves to be acknowledged and celebrated. She would have loved being on TV and I’m sure [if you could] a lot of people would have attended the celebration of her life and worn red – her favourite colour.”

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Becky Sillet – “Positive, determined and a powerful communicator.”

Becky was an integral part of our Treat Me Right! project, which delivers awareness training to health and social care professionals so they can better understand the experiences of people with learning disabilities and/or autistic. Becky worked with the team on training sessions and on our partnership with the University of West London. She was also an active member of Ealing Power Group, which met to support and speak out on behalf of people with learning disabilities in the area. Becky was often accompanied by her husband Neil, her sister Elizabeth or her main carer Emma.

Unfortunately, Becky often had issues with her chest and breathing, and spent lots of time in hospital. Sadly, she died of COVID-19 on 1 April. The team were able to watch her funeral online, but it was very difficult not to be able to say goodbye in person.

People who met Becky always mentioned how infectious her smile was. Her determination throughout several illnesses gave her lots to say about what could be changed in the healthcare system, making her the perfect Treat Me Right! contributor. Becky taught us all that even though she couldn’t speak, it didn’t mean she had nothing to say. She used her text-to-speech computer to talk to people directly and to audiences at events. She had several useful phrases pre-programmed into her computer – including a rendition of ‘Why are we waiting?’ that was always used at the right time!

The Treat Me Right! team will really miss Becky and her positive, resolute approach.

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Esther Adeniji – “She loved to cook and dance.”

Bubbly and talkative, Esther Adeniji will be sadly missed from the house she shared in West London, where she lived for eight years. She was an adventurous cook who enjoyed making Nigerian dishes like jollof rice and was also keen to try her hand at different food styles, following recipes from books and magazine. Esther also loved to eat out and a trip to a new restaurant was her favourite birthday treat.

Esther became ill in late March and sadly died in early April. She is remembered as a very loyal person who treasured friendship. People who lived with her and supported her comment that the house is much quieter without her lively chatter, Nigerian music and impressive dancing.

Pauline Campbell, who manages the house and supported Esther, remembers her forthright approach to interviewing prospective support staff:

“Esther made a valuable contribution to our interview panels using her insight and intuition to influence our recruitment. I remember her advising us along the lines of, ‘Don’t employ her, she didn’t look at me once’ or ‘I like him, he was friendly to me’.

It was very helpful to have Esther’s viewpoint which she was able to articulate very clearly. We will miss her strong and determined personality.”

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Denise Hawkin – “A bit like royalty.”

Living life on her own terms, Denise was uncompromising and determined about taking control of her life. She conducted herself with great poise and enjoyed a life of routine and order. Alongside preferring her cutlery, puzzles and books to be ‘just-so’, her love of red nail polish, manicures and spa days revealed another side of her personality.

Denise was very well-known and loved by Certitude staff, who supported her in Bromley for ten years. Everyone was saddened when Denise died in her sleep in July. She didn’t test positive for coronavirus but had a cough and her death was attributed to bronchial pneumonia.

Denise had been a volunteer at the church where her funeral took place so the pastor conducting the service knew her well. Her support team were involved in the services and Denise’s sister asked them to choose a tree to be planted in her memory in the garden where she lived.

Service Manager, Sara Monaghan, had supported Denise for over twenty years – both with Certitude and previously within the NHS. She has many fond memories of her:

“Denise was a bit like royalty – poised and dainty but also prepared to slam doors to make her point. I admired her willpower and resolve. Everyone who supported Denise understood that things had to be done how she liked them – or they just wouldn’t happen at all!”

John Bird

John Bird – “He astonished us, jumping over obstacles with great skill.”

John Bird was a lively, cheerful and gentle man with an infectious laugh. Everyone he knew was touched by his appreciative nature and keenness to get involved with the community.

John’s love of a cup of tea – ideally with a custard tart or Jaffa cake – was legendary. He has his own way of communicating and would get his cup and hand it over to staff if he wanted a tea. If John was ready to go out, he simply put his jacket on.

“John enjoyed hand and shoulder massages and livelier pieces of music. Sometimes he astonished us by moving around the room in an agile way, stepping or jumping over small obstacles with great skill! He faced many challenges in his life living in institutions much of his life and managing severe sight difficulties. John was a mild-mannered man who was very much a part of the groups he attended. He was supported very patiently and sensitively by the staff at Yarrow, especially during his final few months.”

John died in April after a brief illness. John was given a lovely send off with lots of tributes that captured the impact he had on people’s lives.

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Narabda Shah – “Lady of luxury.”

Known for her love of luxury, 77-year-old Narabda Shah had lived at her home with us in Harrow for over 30 years. If she wasn’t out shopping for fine jewellery and colourful saris in Southall, Narabda could often be found planning her next holiday to some far-flung destination. In recent years – with the support of some very lucky staff – she had taken wonderful holidays to Dubai, Kenya and India.

Narabda went into hospital at the end of March and sadly died a few days later. Family were able to stay in touch with her by phone but staff were very sad not to be able to see her in person during her last few days.

Alice Rankin, who knew Narabda for eight years has many fond memories of this dignified lady:

“Everyone here enjoyed Narabda’s company and, although she didn’t want to be the centre of attention, she was always present. Lots of staff called her Miss Shah – she was the kind of person who commanded respect. If we went on a day trip she would always come, as long as there was a café where she could sit and drink tea. She loved to people-watch.”

The team and the people she lived with watched Narabda’s funeral online. They say it felt quite surreal, so they are hoping to have some kind of memorial event to celebrate her life. Alice said: “We plan to unveil a new bench in Narabda’s favourite sunny spot in the garden to commemorate this lovely, smiley lady.”


Nina Peters – “A generous-hearted force of nature.“

Nina was passionate, bold and determined. She was part of the Certitude team for over 25 years and her knowledge and expertise were respected by staff, families and those we support. In her roles as a support worker, manager and most recently, an Activity Co-ordinator at the ARC, Nina touched the lives of many people and is remembered for her kindness, her unstoppable energy and her belief that anything is possible.

Nina’s death at the end of March was sudden and shocking and impacted many people, which was reflected in the countless emotional messages the ARC received about her.

Nina’s manager, Alison Twells says: “Forget breaking down barriers – Nina barely saw barriers. With Nina’s design, people we support at the ARC have been tobogganing, visited tattoo conventions, met up together in wine bars and comedy clubs, sold items they had made at farmers markets and gone on protest marches, to give just a few examples.”

Support worker Jelena remembers her “warm hugs and art projects” and describes Nina as “the ‘Mum’ of the ARC; always bringing her positive energy to this place, cooking delicious food for everybody.”

Nina was also loved by families, many of whom sent messages for a memorial book for Nina’s family. One family member wrote: “The very first time we met Nina she was so warmly welcoming and spoke to us like she knew us. She brought lots of smiles for Muna and he always loved it when he heard Nina, she would always make us all laugh.”

Another couple said: “We always found Nina full of fun and full of life – even on a bad day she cheered people up. We cannot express our feelings when we heard she had passed away. Whenever we bought Ian to the Saturday club she always welcomed him saying, “here’s my handsome lad” and Ian always smiled at that.”

Deputy Manager, Kasia Calver-Jones, says that Nina’s cheeky nature was an essential part of her: “Nina was a driving force for the creativity here, but rarely took a prize for it herself, and was truly thrilled with others’ success. She was actually quite humble but always youthful at heart and ready for a mischief and a joke. Every day I miss her – and her chilli jam, and her rude expressions in English lessons.”

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Peter Anosike – “A wonderful positive spirit.”

With his torn-up jeans and back-to-front cap, Peter is remembered by his colleagues as a “special, unique character; always smiling and caring for others”. He worked across Certitude for many years and brought his positivity and enthusiasm to those we support through our Shared Lives programme and our Wandsworth respite service, as well as at houses in Brixton and Richmond.

Sadly, Peter passed away during the pandemic and people we support, staff members, family and friends and different teams across Certitude, were all moved by his sudden loss. Everyone was invited to share their fond memories of Peter at a memorial service in the autumn.

Peter dedicated his life to supporting others and his commitment was second to none. He had an unmovable calmness which touched so many lives. No challenge was ever too great for Peter and people felt both reassured and motivated by his presence.

Mark Wallis, who worked with Peter for many years, said: “He will remain in our hearts, always. He may have left us from the physical, but his character and our memories of him, will stay with us forever.”

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Ram Sanney – “Spritely, energetic and ready to try new things.”

Ram lived independently and at 79, he was spritely, energetic and always ready to experience something new. His adventurous spirit was unleashed through his interactions with Certitude at the ARC, where he used the MyTime service for days out accompanied by support workers.

Sadly, Ram died this year, early in the COVID-19 pandemic. As his sister was unable to travel from India to arrange a funeral, Jan Harris, who has been a supporter, friend and advocate for Ram for over 30 years, worked with his great-niece to arrange the ceremony.

Jan explains: “We managed to organise a Hindu funeral as best we could, given that only eight people were allowed to attend and there was no wake or celebration of his life afterwards, which felt very strange. His sister in India watched the service online and then three weeks later his niece and I took a boat on the River Thames, near to Kingston to scatter his ashes, following the Hindu tradition.”

Jan is very grateful to the ARC team for all the support they gave Ram. She fondly remembers wonderful outings to museums, stately homes, theatres, the cinema and restaurants – and it seems the journeys to get to these places were also a source of delight:

Jan recollects: “One of Ram’s greatest joys was to be driven in a car with Andy Williams singing ‘I Can’t Take My Eyes Off You’ and ‘I Love You Baby’ blasting out of the CD player, while he and his support worker sang along.”

Others we lost during this time

During this period, we also sadly lost Marcus Malachi. Although we only knew Marcus for a short time, he had such an impact on the whole team and exceeded all expectations whilst being supported by us in Streatham. Hirila Rose, Head of Service, described Marcus as “a remarkable young man.” She said: “Our thoughts are with Marcus and his family and he will always be remembered.”