Tuesday, June 17, 2014

A day at the Palace

As some of you may know, I've been volunteering for the British Red Cross for over a year now. I'm a volunteer as part of the 'Gofal' program, which aims to enable isolated older adults to engage with their community. As a volunteer I assess the needs of incoming clients and provide short-term support towards the goal of increasing their confidence, independence, and quality of life. I've been an active volunteer in various ways since high school, and when I moved over here I wanted to continue that tradition. I wanted to volunteer in some way with older adults, and to be honest I found the British Red Cross opportunity by accident. Like many people, the first thing that comes to my mind when I hear of the Red Cross is first aid, emergency response, and foreign aid, so I wouldn't have thought to look them up for the type of volunteering I was interested in. In fact, alongside of all of these things, they have a strong focus on supporting independence in the community to people who are isolated or people with health and mobility issues. When I saw a flyer in their shop advertising their need for volunteers to work with older people, I jumped at the chance! I am so glad that I have become involved with them, because they are a fantastic organization to volunteer with. Their motto is 'refusing to ignore people in crisis', and I love this because it focuses on the individual and the fact that anyone can have a personal crisis that leads to a need for help and support. 

On Thursday, June 12th, I had the once-in-a-lifetime experience of attending a Royal Garden Party at Buckingham Palace! The British Red Cross was founded in 1864, initially as an organization to be responsible for advancing the rules laid down in the first Geneva Convention. The British Red Cross played a huge role in caring for British soldiers during both World Wars, and this royal garden party was to honor 150 years of service from the British Red Cross. As a special tribute to the role that the BRC played in World War I, there were nurses dressed in WWI-style nurses' uniforms, and one of the cakes served was an original WWI-era recipe!

All staff and volunteers were given the opportunity to apply to be selected to attend, and I applied and was chosen by ballot to attend the party along with 6,000 other volunteers and members of staff. One of the local offices arranged a bus to take everyone from the area who was attending, and there were about 30 of us going. We couldn't have had a more perfect day for it--it was 80 degrees and sunny, and I felt like a celebrity walking through the gates of Buckingham Palace. There were, of course, many tourists around the gates of the palace and looking through at it, and I'm sure they were all quite curious as to why we were being allowed to enter! The front facade that you see from outside the gates is actually just a massive gatehouse of sorts, and beyond that there's a big courtyard. After walking across the courtyard we entered the palace and got to walk through a few rooms to get out to the gardens in the back. The last room you passed through before the gardens had a line of Yeomen on either side--the Yeomen is the actual name of the Beefeaters, and the ones in the palace were all retired military men so they were wearing the uniforms you see below. They spent much of the garden party marching around in formation for no apparent reason other than, I think, our entertainment!

Prince Charles and Princess Alexandra with nurses

I'm sure you've all been waiting for me to post a picture of my selfie taken with the Queen, which I'm sorry to say did not happen. The Queen was not in attendance at our party, probably because she'd just attended a Royal Garden Party on Tuesday for Prince Philip's 90th Birthday! Our Royal Family guests were Prince Charles, the Prince of Wales, who is also the honorary president of the British Red Cross, and Princess Alexandra. I actually had to look up a Royal Family Tree when I got home, and the Princess is a first cousin of the queen! I only got to see them from very far away, but it's still cool knowing I was there with royalty!

All the food served was absolutely delicious! My friend John who had attended a garden party before told me that I had to try the cucumber sandwiches, and though I was skeptical as to how cucumber sandwiches could be made to be exceptional, he was right! The trick is mint leaves. Aside from those, my favorite delicacies were these gorgeous strawberry tarts, and the iced coffee, which I'm sure had a hint of a chocolate taste to it. I had thought there might be some speeches or something during the party, but it really was three hours of wandering around the gardens and socializing, while enjoying the entertainment. There was a military band playing at each opposite corner of the garden, one was the Parachute Regiment Band and one was the Royal Marines Band.

I am so glad that I went to this event, not only because I know I will never again have the chance to go inside Buckingham Palace, but because I had the chance to meet fellow volunteers and staff of the BRC and to connect with people who share my similar values regarding helping people and working in social care. Although we were told we were forbidden from bringing cameras and from taking photographs on cell phones, the second part of that rule was not being enforced inside, and I saw SO many people taking pictures. I was tempted, but I refrained until we were on our way out, at which point I decided if the Beefeaters were going to kick me out, it would just get me out of the crowds faster (but they didn't). So here's me in all my splendor in the courtyard on my way out of Buckingham Palace!

1 comment:

  1. ZOMG SO AWESOME!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! And girl, you're a celebrity in my book! ^__^