Sunshine in the rain

Insight from IVEP partner

A young woman in traditional Indonesian garb smiles in front of a group of people

Editor’s Note: Eliza Brown of Garden Spot Village in New Holland, Pennsylvania, supervises IVEP participant Iha Missa from Indonesia. Top photo: Iha Missa showcases an Indonesian dance “Oko Mama” during the Meadow View Christmas Program at Garden Spot Village. Garden Spot Village photo/Sharon Sparkes

There is this rare moment – my favorite part of a rainstorm – when the rain is still falling steadily, but the sun begins to shine at the same time. It is a dissonant feeling: Doesn’t the sun know the rain hasn’t gone? How does it shine so unabashedly? It is so unexpected, so exquisite, how it glistens.  

Walking alongside someone who is living with dementia can sometimes feel a bit like a rain cloud is overhead, making everything a bit dim, a bit more challenging, sometimes a bit sad. It often feels as if there is rain falling, and you don’t quite know how to carry on. Strangely enough, however, if you’ve ever seen our friend Iha walking alongside someone with dementia, it somehow seems as if streams of sunlight have found a way to shine despite the rain.

When I was told that we’d be welcoming an IVEPer named Iha to join us for just shy of a year, I didn’t entirely know what that meant. I understood that she would be a volunteer coming from Indonesia to learn and experience how we do life here at Garden Spot Village’s memory support community, Meadow View. But there would have been no way for me to understand just how quickly Iha would become part of the Meadow View family, and how seamlessly she would accept us – quirks and all.  

If I’m being honest, I can’t remember much about Iha’s first few days here, likely because of how she jumped in without hesitation. I remember meeting her, and then I remember her instantly taking our residents by the hand … and I don’t think she’s let go ever since! What stood out to me during those first few days and weeks was Iha’s ability to connect with residents in a way I hadn’t been able to during my time here. Their connection ran deeper than face value, for the residents had never met Iha; they possibly had never met anyone from Indonesia.

A young woman in traditional Indonesian clothing stands behind a table with traditional food
Iha shares traditional Indonesian food she made for Garden Spot Village’s Global Food Odyssey. Garden Spot Village photo/Eliza Brown 

Iha has been incredibly generous throughout her time here, sharing about her culture in ways that couldn’t have always been easy. She has volunteered to showcase a dance from her country during our Christmas variety show. She has shared music from her culture and her beautiful language at times. She has even cooked food from Indonesia for residents and staff of Meadow View to taste during our Global Food Odyssey. Culture is something that I often take for granted, having never traveled outside of my own country. I can’t imagine how difficult it must be to leave behind everybody who speaks your first language, everybody who eats the foods you love and expresses themselves the way you were raised to express yourself and everybody who knows you. Upon leaving her culture, Iha entered an environment where the majority of people she interacted with had lost parts of themselves as well – not due to distance, but to dementia.  

Many have lost their family members. Others have lost their language, their taste for their favorite foods or their grasp on how to express themselves. Many don’t recognize their surroundings or the people with whom they share meals. Dementia is a loss of culture, and Iha understands that more deeply than I am able to, perhaps more deeply than anybody here at Meadow View. I think her sacrifice of culture is why she was able to look our residents so easily in the eyes and tell them that she, too, is a fellow traveler.  

I never understood why I love rainstorms so much, but I know that when the sun spills through and the raindrops just keep tumbling, I can’t help but smile. That was Iha’s entrance into Meadow View. The raincloud of dementia has not gone away, but every day with Iha here at Meadow View is my favorite part of the rainstorm -─ the part where the sun makes the raindrops shine.