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Resident reflects on sharing a birthday with Bupa

Date: 03 May 2022

Bupa celebrated its 75th birthday and 75 years of caring for our residents on 3 April. However, that date is special in more ways than one – with many of our residents also sharing their birthday celebrations with Bupa.

Across Bupa, we have 23 residents that marked turning a year older on April 3 – with warm wishes from our teams going out to them all!

One of these residents, Lester Ebanks, from Bupa Stokeswood Care Home, in Lower Hutt, turned 79-years-young this April 3.

Jamaican-born Lester was just 4-years-old when Bupa started, and he was living on the Caribbean island with his mother, grandmother, six brothers and five sisters.

Speaking with Bupa Stokeswood Recreation Assistant, Louise Vallack, Lester reflects on what life was like at the time:

“It was a hard life. We lived in a village called Great Bay. My Dad moved out when I was four and my Mum worked hard to look after the family – washing floors and clothes for other people, for a small amount of money.

“My sisters went to school, but the boys had to work to help support the family. This meant I was never educated and cannot read or write.

“We boys would go and work for the fishermen, helping them to bring in the nets, clean the fish and wash the boats. We were given fish in return for our work and also fished ourselves,” Lester says.

“The family grew beans, peas, corn and cassava. Getting food and finding wood for the fire were our main activities. The best fun we had was swimming in the sea. Life was hard, but we lived life like we had everything.

“I learnt to value everything and to take care of myself,” he says.

While Lester says he has never really celebrated his birthday, he went on to work as a cook and loved to bake cakes.

“You have to have the heart and soul and love to be a good cook. You have to show the food love, and it shows in the food you make,” he says.

“I would bake cakes to take to church every Sunday, and also enjoyed making Chinese food.”

It was his job as a Chef in Jamaica that saw him meet his Kiwi wife, Leonora, after cooking for her and a group of other women travelling from New Zealand.

Lester said they “hit it off” and after a short courtship he asked her to marry him. They were later wed under a mango tree, before moving to New Zealand in the year 2000.

Now as a Bupa resident, if Lester could say anything to his younger self, he says it would be to “enjoy life as much as possible”.

His words of wisdom for others are, “I would advise people to have a balanced life and to be independent, to try to do all that you need yourself. Be the best that you can with what you have,” he says.

The 79-year-old says he is content, with friends and everything he wants and needs within the care home.

Happy Birthday Lester!