There’s irony in the fact that Fiona Allan-Poole decided to take a week off cooking to celebrate her recent birthday.Fiona Allan-Poole

The newly turned 47-year-old suffered a stroke five years ago and learned to cook again through attending weekly cooking classes run by Anglican Care Community Development in Sydenham.

“It’s given me back a bit of confidence,” says Fiona, a former banker. “I’d forgotten everything and that was frustrating.”

At first, a helper attended the classes with Fiona, to help her with food preparation and the like. Now, Fiona says she has “branched out” on her own and feels able to do the classes by herself. Some of her favourite meals are pasta and pumpkin soup.

“Before the course, my poor husband had to chop and cut and do everything,” she says. “Not many people realise [what a milestone it is] for me to do it.”

One person who is more than aware is the local Anglican Care community development worker Karen Whittaker, who is based at St Anne’s House in Wilsons Road South. She has got to know Karen over the past 6 months, during which Fiona has also attended a sewing class at the centre.

“Fiona contributes to classes here by who she is; she has a wicked sense of humour,” says Karen. “People in the class really love her. She is supportive of what we do and she benefits as well.”

Karen is a trained social worker employed by the diocese to help offer a range of social services including advocacy and individual and family support.

For her early August birthday, Fiona chose to celebrate every day for a week by eating out or having a family member cook for her. At the restaurant meal, she wore for the first time a floral dress she made with help from women in the sewing class.

‘It’s not that hard to sew a dress,” she says with laughter in her voice, demonstrating that her sense of humour hasn’t diminished.

“That how it works – because we all help everybody.”

Karen says the lift in Fiona’s confidence has also been exemplified by Fiona showing a more novice sewer how to thread the bobbin in the sewing machine.

Megan Blakie 10/8/16