Dot’s mother was born in Dublin and her stepfather came from Achill. However, she hadn’t really engaged with her Irish heritage: “My parents were pub people and I wasn’t, really. There was always too much cooking and cleaning to be done at home,” she says.
Dot has received a warm welcome at the Lunch Club and the sessions have helped her build her confidence back up. “They’re all nice people. You can have a good laugh and a chat,” says Dot. “I’ve really clicked with one woman in particular and we’re ringing each other up and doing things outside of LIHH.”
“And another lady is knitting me some little Christmas puddings to give to my friend to put on her table for Christmas. It’s so kind of her.”
After a car accident 15 years ago, Dot struggles with her mobility. In 2000, she was registered blind and had to give up her job in a care home. “My shift used to start at 8:30 but I’d get there at 7. I’d go back to work tomorrow if I could,” she says. “I’ve looked after people all my life.”
As the youngest of five siblings, Dot was living at home when her mother fell sick. Her mum had a colostomy, hysterectomy and kidney removed and, at one point, she was given four hours to live. She pulled through, but was dogged by ill health for much of her life. “I was thirteen when my next oldest sister left home,” says Dot. “A lot fell on my shoulders.”
Dot’s mother died 23 years ago, and her step-father 11 years ago. Since then, she’s lived on her own. “You can get very lonely and depressed in the house, especially in the winter if no one's coming to visit you.”
Since getting her little dog Milo, though, Dot has felt more positive. “I was out with him at 7:30 this morning,” she says. “People love him - they’re always coming over to pet him. He gets me out and about.”
And finding Leeds Irish Health and Homes and the Lunch Clubs has been a boost for Dot’s mental health, too: “I have a pudding and I do the raffle and the bingo. I’ve won a few times - I won £20 the other week! Clare plays it for me because I can’t see the numbers.”
“I’ve met people from years ago who knew my mum and me when I was small. It’s really bucked me up the last couple of months thinking of the old times,” says Dot. “It’s definitely got my confidence up and it’s encouraging me to go out more. And coming into the winter and the dark nights, I know they’re there.”
There are a whole range of LIHH services to access if you’d like to get out and about and meet new people. Give us a call on 0113 262 5614 to find out more.