The extraordinary Lyndall Roman is improving the lives of people at the Ann Harding Cheshire Home in Northwold, Randburg

My first introduction to Lyndall was via an email from Sr. Tobile Biyela of the Ann Harding Cheshire Home and it read as follows:

"I was wondering if Rolling Inspiration would be interested in reporting on our Home Manager Lyndall Roman, who was recently awarded by Rotary Blackheath Club, the Paul Harris Fellowship Award for her outstanding service to improve the lives of disabled people. This award was presented to Lyndall in July as recognition for the work she has done at the Ann Harding Home over the past 7+ years."

Lyndall cornered me in the parking lot and accompanied me into the Ann Harding Cheshire Home. She talked nonstop; to me and to everyone that crossed her path, overflowing with enthusiasm and with an obvious love for the residents and the staff. When we finally sat down in the newly refurbished visitors lounge, I had an opportunity to really get a look at her. I saw a compassionate woman but I also saw a battleaxe. To me, Lyndall looks like a superefficient no-nonsense woman who embraces those who are willing despite their limitations. In her own words, she does “not tolerate laziness and sloppiness - I understand why.

I learned that Lyndall survived chemotherapy for breast cancer. I learned that she has had two successive mastectomies. Lyndall also lived with a terrible mouth infection for several years, which despite several surgical procedures, resulted in most of her upper jaw being resorbed. At the time she was a landscape gardener and was known to Dullstroom locals as "die kwaai tannie van Johannesburg sonder tande." These setbacks did not get Lyndall down. Through it all her spirit and her perseverance gives her the will to live life to the full.

Lyndall was introduced to the Ann Harding Cheshire Home when her brother Peter, an adult cerebral palsy sufferer, broke his neck and became a C3,C4 quadriplegic. She visited Peter at the home and was appalled at what she experienced. At that time the home was a tired, depressing place, housing room-bound inmates rather than residents.

This initial exposure to the Ann Harding Cheshire Home made Lyndall realise that she had many skills that would help the struggling home. Lyndall is not only a qualified nursing sister but she has also worked as a bookkeeper, landscaper, events manager and a sales representative for a pharmaceutical company. Her expertise and aptitude were exactly what the home required.

The natural homemaker started nesting and she threw all her skills into turning the home into a HOME. Through the diversity of her work experiences, Lyndall had also built an extensive network of contacts. She cajoled and even bullied some of her contacts into giving her what the home needed.

Over the years Lyndall has comfortably worn the job titles of bookkeeper, landscape gardener, nurse manager, chairperson and event organiser. Currently she is known as the home manager (an apt title that covers all her competencies).

The Director of Leonard Cheshire International epitomised her success in a simple statement. When he visited the home and found Lyndall busy in the garden as usual, he said to her in all seriousness "Lyndall, be careful of making the place too pretty; people will stop feeling sorry for the home."

Lyndall argues that the exact opposite is true. People may be drawn to give out of compassion but when the phoenix rises from the ashes and it is witnessed that people living with disabilities are achieving much more than they thought they could; this enthuses people. And enthusiastic people do more than give; they participate. And it is participation that begets sustainable success. This perhaps exemplifies the root of Lyndall's success, it's her ability to enthuse.

I wonder what Lyndall gets out of it, so I ask "You invested a lot of yourself in this place, what returns mean the most to you?" I expected her to talk about the bright and cheery nature of the buildings, her beautiful gardens or the quality of her management team. "The smiles and the laughter. The happiness. Seeing people achieving so much more than what they believed they could."

“And the future? That let loose another deluge of enthusiasm. I was hauled over to plans for independent homes; a village built for fully independent living for the disabled – 26 homes in all. Material for another article I think.

I barely had time to say goodbye. The interview was done and Lyndall was off on another mission.