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Handprints Quilt: a unique Anam Cara Geelong memorial

Our Marketing Manager Jane Thomas sat down with volunteer and former staff member Erika Pickering to have a chat about the memorial handprint quilts.

Jane Thomas (JT) How did the project start?

Erika Pickering (EP): Donna Muffett and I thought that we would like to welcome some of the Day Hospice people with a little gift. However, it got to be such a big job that Donna made some small quilted patches instead and we decided that we would just put the guest's name on it with their handprint (done in paint) and some simple decoration like flowers.

But I thought I could do a better job for our guests so that’s when I started to ask to them about things like their interests, hobbies, jobs, etc.

For instance if somebody played sport I’d have a little tennis racket or cricket bat or something relevant to them. One gentleman used to be a nightman so I was thinking at the weekend “how can I represent that?” And I thought maybe I can get some clay and make a little can like he used to carry on his shoulder however I looked through my stickers and I had a little dunny so I’ve got that for him instead!

JT: I like the sense of humour! So it’s relevant to him but it also relates to a time gone by in our city?

Yes many of our guests are older so that can happen. Each handprint is individual – it’s whatever they used to do in their lives or something they still love.

JT: When do you first speak with our guests and what happens to the print?

I try to do it on the first visit and I put their name on it and the date of when I took the handprint.

The handprint gets put up on one of our two quilts which hang on the wall in the downstairs lounge at Anam Cara House.

When that guest dies I get a photocopy of the handprint and I take it the Frame Factory in Ormond Road and they get it mounted for me (at no cost) together with a photo of the guest and we present that to the family.

JT: It’s a beautiful idea - what do the guests say about it?

They are really pleased because this is so individual and I think they feel that they are important because somebody listened to them and went to the trouble of putting it all together. We’ve had families come up and they put their hand up on their mother or father’s handprint.

JT: I guess it connects them to their loved one. Do the families expect the framed picture and handprint?

They don’t know and they’re really pleased that there is something unique to their family member that they can keep.

JT: I find that anyone who comes to the House is fascinated about the quilt and the handprints

EP: People always say to me that they’ve never come across anything like that way of remembering people, nothing as personal as that.

JT: It means our guests and their families are a permanent part of our community

EP: When we put the handprint up on the quilt they're a part of the Anam Cara family and they always will be.