When a sudden surge in COVID cases threatened to overwhelm the King Edward VII Memorial Hospital in Bermuda this fall, Hamilton’s North Street Citadel came together to provide practical and spiritual support to weary nurses.
North Street has a number of nurses in its ranks, including Suja Chandrasekaran, an IV nurse at the hospital. “It was very overwhelming,” she says about the recent surge in cases. “The hospital was overflowing with COVID patients.”
“As we were thinking about what we could do, one of our nurses suggested that we could help by providing meals,” notes Captain Dwayne Barnes, corps officer.
“Nurses in the ICU had to work 12-hour, 16-hour shifts,” Chandrasekaran explains. “They didn’t have time to go get groceries and cook.”
So for three weeks, at the height of the surge, the corps provided a total of 115 lunch and dinner meals on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. On an average day, approximately 15 corps members were involved with gathering the ingredients, preparing the meals and delivering the food boxes.
The food boxes contained more than physical nourishment. “We didn’t want to just give them a meal,” says Captain Dwayne Barnes, “so we came up with the idea of including devotional cards to encourage and uplift the nurses and doctors during this time.”
Those devotional cards were created by members of North Street Citadel, allowing Salvationists who may not have been able to participate in the preparation or delivery of the meals to take part in the ministry.
“This gave people an opportunity to be at home and still be involved,” says Captain Kendacy Barnes, corps officer. “Home doesn’t mean you can’t do anything. There are other ways to meet the needs of the community.”
The meals and devotionals were much appreciated by the hospital staff. The head of the nurse’s department created a WhatsApp group chat, and every night they sent the Barnes pictures of the nurses receiving their boxes. “When we saw the pictures, we said, ‘Lord, we just thank you for this opportunity to be able to serve in this capacity,’ ” says Captain Dwayne.
“The meal program gave the hospital staff an opportunity to get to know about The Salvation Army,” says Chandrasekaran. “As our Founders said, the mission of the Army is soup, soap and salvation, and that was practised. The staff were very grateful for The Salvation Army and their kindness.”
Once the program was up and running, other community members got involved, including a number of local hotels, which donated meals. The captains note that the Army is now in talks with the hotels about distributing hygiene care packages to seniors in need.
“There are partnerships being formed, there is room for mission,” says Captain Kendacy. “It’s amazing—this program started small and just exploded. We’re really excited."