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Talking tea and training with Harmonia village manager Carrie Mandeville


Published on 20 November 2019

Life may be like a box of chocolates, but a pioneering dementia village will be like a comforting cup of tea, according to its manager.

Carrie Mandeville was appointed manager of Harmonia Village at Dover after sharing her vision that the community should be like the comforting British staple. 

The 38-year-old mum of one is preparing for the first residents to move in early next year and hopes to inspire staff to follow her lead in creating a welcoming and homely environment.

She said: “I took a bag with a flask, cups and saucers, mugs, tea, coffee, sugar, and even spoons to my interview, where I had to present my vision for Harmonia.

“When I went in they pointed out the laptop and were a bit taken aback when I said I didn’t need it. Instead, I laid out a lace tablecloth and said I wanted to make them all a cup of tea, or to give them the opportunity to do it for themselves.

“They all chose to make their own, which was good because it gave me the opportunity to talk about empowering people to do things for themselves, which is how I see Harmonia.

“I want it to be welcoming, familiar and comforting, like a cup of tea.”

The village will have six houses, each providing care for five residents, as well as a central hub with a café and space for activities. The hub is due to open next month.

Carrie said: “It’s a real privilege to be able to care for people and to be working on such a ground-breaking project.

“I really want to empower the team to be the best they can be, doing what they love. Some people get joy from housekeeping, or from catering – everyone has their own skills and experiences.

“At Harmonia, we will be measured on the difference we make; whether that’s seeing someone smile, or hearing a relative say their father hasn’t done that for years.”

Carrie’s appointment is the culmination of years of study and training after leaving school earlier than planned because of bullying. She had just one GCSE to her name – in drama.

After working as a cleaner, and in BHS, a friend suggested she could apply to be a carer at the care home where she worked.

It was while she was there that the idea of nursing first appealed, when she met a district nurse who visited to change patients’ dressings.

Carrie said: “She had such a warm and bubbly personality and I wanted to do what she was doing.

“She was so encouraging and helped me see that there was a way around my lack of qualifications, with NVQs and workplace training.”

Carrie soon picked up temporary work on wards at the hospital, and then found herself volunteering for her first shift in the emergency department.

It sparked a passion for acute healthcare and as soon as a permanent position came up for a health care assistant Carrie applied for it and was successful.

She worked her way up to become one of East Kent Hospitals’ first A&E technicians, and continued training on the job.

She said: “I just got a taste of what it could be like to do something more with myself.

“I was a girl with one GCSE living in my nan and grandad’s spare room and I had thought all this was out of reach.

“But the team and the Trust were so supportive and I applied for nursing training. When the letter arrived to say I’d been accepted onto the university course, my grandparents saw the logo on the envelope and brought it to me at work – they were so proud.”

University study was challenging but Carrie persisted, and soon found herself teaching others, while taking on more specialised nursing roles including working in intensive care, sexual health outreach, school nursing and with frail patients and those with long-term conditions.

She now has a year left of study for a Masters in advanced clinical practice.

The Harmonia Village is part-funded through a partnership with the Interreg 2 Seas programme, co-funded by the European Regional Development Fund.

It is supported by the Dementia Appeal run by East Kent Hospitals Charity.