This week at Norwood (19 July 2019)

19 July 2019

Planning for the future of Ravenswood

Last Friday afternoon, plans for the development of the Ravenswood site were, at last, submitted to Wokingham Borough Council. The application is a hybrid and so, in addition to the major upgrade of our own residential accommodation and facilities for the current 111 residents, it also seeks permission for the development of 183 new homes built by Charles Church. Forty per cent of these will be allocated for affordable housing.

The plans balance the needs of residents but also open opportunities to create much more inclusive lifestyles for them. It will take approximately another week for the planning application to go live on the Wokingham Council website at which time we will be calling on staff, users, families, volunteers and the wider community to support the application and ensure it is accepted.

Emotional reunion for Norwood orphans

The Norwood Old Scholars Association (NOSA) held a reunion last Sunday (14 July) at the Double Tree Hotel, Holborn. The association was established in the 1960s and currently has about 350 members. Over the 100 years Norwood ran as an orphanage, it cared for more than 10,000 children.

This year’s reunion was all about collecting memorabilia and items were brought along from our own archive to add to the members’ personal memorabilia – which included one lady’s original Post Office savings book, with 2/6 (half a crown) deposited in it, that Norwood gave her when she first went to the orphanage.
Jack Matthews, who is chair of NOSA, said that the success of this year’s event was due to people being “interested in finding out about people they had not spoken to before, whereas usually everyone tended to seek out those who had arrived at the orphanage at about the same time they had”.

Norwood’s history is filled with a multitude of remarkable stories which reflect so well not only on Norwood but on the whole Jewish community, and these need to be celebrated. Many of those who came were happy to share their memories on film which thanks to our film-maker extraordinaire, Oscar Kraft, you can view here.

Guests told how Norwood saved them, but also described the sadness that some of them felt about the fact that they felt they did not truly belong anywhere.

Norwood’s receptionist, Liz Power, explained how she came to England with her father and brother from India not speaking a word of English, and how she and her brother were left at the Norwood Orphanage when their father went to live in Israel. Liz left the orphanage at 15 (the age until which one could stay) and went to live with a foster family who helped her finish her schooling and then go to secretarial college.

Ronnie Schwartz, executive vice president of NOSA, told of being the first Norwood Orphanage boy to be bar mitzvah. As there was no synagogue, the ceremony was held in the science rooms! In his interview he says that Norwood was his “mother and father. After all, Norwood brought me up.” Another guest told of how her grandfather was a foundling at the Norwood Asylum back in the 1890s.

Lessons in kindness

Last week, 24 year nine students from the Henrietta Barnett School in Hampstead Garden Suburb visited Norwood. Half the group spent time with residents at Highview Gardens and helped them decorate their garden by painting stones and decorating CDs which they hung around the space. The other half went to the Kennedy Leigh Family Centre where they also decorated stones before packing toiletries they had donated in canvas bags that will be given to families and people we support who use the centre.

Fifteen students from year six at Sacks Morasha Jewish Primary School in Finchley also spent time at the Kennedy Leigh Family Centre, where, following a talk and a tour of the centre, they filled bags with fruit they had donated for the people we support.