Former Butlins Redcoat volunteers at care home to be near her father in the pandemic

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A former Butlins Redcoat who was so desperate to see her dad during the first lockdown that she volunteered at his care home, is still bringing joy to residents all these months later.

Nina Ambrose became an activities and events coordinator at Manor Lodge in Chelmsford, meaning she could see Roger three times a week and she says she feels so lucky to have been given that opportunity.

When lockdown began, like many, Nina Ambrose was faced with the prospect of not seeing her father for months.

Roger Ambrose is 77 and was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s six years ago. He moved into Manor Lodge care home in January.

 Very close to her father Nina was used to seeing him several times a week and when the first Covid-19 lockdown was brought it, she was worried if he didn’t see her regularly, he would forget her. 

He’d been there for 10 weeks maybe, and I was really worried he wouldn’t know who I was, if I wasn’t able to see him. We are so close

Nina Ambrose
Nina Ambrose was well qualified for her role as entertainment coordinator as a former Butlins Redcoat

Nina, who lives in Writtle, was furloughed from her job with Benefit Cosmetics in April. Then she decided to put herself forward to volunteer at the home, with the hope she would be able to see Roger.

Following two interviews her offer was accepted, and after taking eight exams, including wellbeing, hygiene and health and safety tests, as well as completing a DBS (Disclosure and Barring Service) check, she was able to start as an activities team volunteer, five weeks since she had last seen her dad.  

 Now, she visits Manor Lodge three or four times a week, engaging the residents in games, and singing songs. It’s a role that comes naturally to Nina, who used to work as a Butlins Red Coat. 

Roger Ambrose played in soft rock and country music bands throughout his life Credit: Ambrose family

Nina shares her creative streak with her father, a retired lorry driver, who played in soft rock and country music bands throughout his life, and a few years ago he and Nina were doing gigs together. 

Nina believes music plays a huge role in the wellbeing of people with dementia and Alzheimer’s, and says she sees singing put the residents at ease. She wants to continue volunteering, even when her furlough is over. 

“I love people to be happy around me, it’s meant so much to make people smile, they’re in that home and they can’t see their loved ones at the moment, it’s making them smile and it’s making me smile, and that’s so good for my wellbeing during these times.

Nina Ambrose
Roger Ambrose pictured with his daughter Nina when she was a toddler Credit: Ambrose family

Nina helps on a separate unit to her father, so her treat at the end of each of her shifts is to pay a socially distanced visit to her beloved dad. She says she counts herself very lucky that she is able to spend this time with him, but is looking forward to the day she can give him a hug. 

Nina says “I will try not to cry, because it’s not just that I haven’t hugged him for ages, it’s also the fact it’s been this whole journey I’ve been on from the start of this virus, all the way through to getting to know all of these residents.

"When I hug him I think it will be really emotional because it will mean so much, not just about not seeing him, but actually about what I’ve achieved during this time.”

Nina helps on a separate unit to her father, so her treat at the end of each of her shifts is to pay a socially distanced visit Credit: Nina Ambrose