Tovertafel at Martin Luther Homes

A community fundraiser that has gone full circle

At the start of 2020, the staff at Martin Luther Homes made a bold plan to fundraise enough money to purchase a Tovertafel. While big ideas on how to raise the ambitious $15,000 were at hand fairly quickly, including trivia nights and sausage sizzles, the spread of the Covid-19 pandemic soon put an end to all those plans as all of them involved large groups of people gathering to donate for a good cause.

We all knew within a few weeks that 2020 will be a year like no other and that we had two options; either to scrap the idea alltogether or to come up with a new concept. And it didn’t take staff long to make a decision.

Aged care facilities, such as Martin Luther Homes, were the first ones to go into lockdown and within a few weeks, we all had to learn what it meant to be cut off from the outside world. While our staff did their best to entertain residents and to keep them in touch with their friends and family members through games and video chats, it soon became obvious that new forms of entertainment and mental stimulation are required to improve the daily lives of our residents, especially under challenging circumstances such as a lockdown.

Therefore, there was only one answer to the uncertainty that our fundraiser faced, we had to charge ahead and raise the money, with even more determination than before.

We shifted all our efforts to the internet and, as for so many other charitable organisations, we had to learn how to run a fundraiser exclusively online. We set up a go-fund-me page, informed everyone via our social media channels, and updated potential donors via our website and e-newsletter.

Want to subscribe to our newsletter?

The response was astounding, within weeks we got close to the $5000 mark, however, things slowed down a fair bit soon after. A second wave of raising awareness was needed and more digital door-knocking required. We also focused even stronger on our friends and supporters in local and Melbourne’s German-speaking community.

As part of this renewed effort, our Marketing Manager, Oliver Heuthe, also gave an interview on SBS Radio where he explained to host Adrian Plitzco what a Tovertafel actually is. He also explained the importance of the device for people who suffer from dementia, especially during an uncertain time of lockdowns and re-occurring restrictions.

Once the SBS podcast went live, two people were listening who made a big difference to our fundraising effort. Due to the magic of social media, one of the inventors of the Tovertafel, Sjoerd Wennekes, tuned in and he offered his support, all the way from the Netherlands. And, most importantly, SBS listener Sieglind D’Arcy also got intrigued.

German-born Sieglind has lived in Melbourne for decades, yet she had never heard of Martin Luther Homes before, let alone did she know that some clever Dutch engineers had developed a new interactive projector device that comes with a variety of games for seniors and people who have dementia. Dementia is a topic close to Sieglind’s heart, her late mother was diagnosed with the disorder and Sieglind knows first hand, how challenging it can be to break through to people who have been severely affected by it.

Once she had listened to the interview and pictured how much good such a device during such challenging times can do, Sieglind did not hesitate and got out her credit card to make a very generous donation.

“There were so many people who supported our fundraiser, we received many wonderful donations on a small and larger scale, but Sieglind’s generosity was a real milestone and helped us to cross the line!” Oliver Heuthe, Marketing Manager

Once the money had been raised, the customer experience with the local supplier Leef was second to none, and the magic table arrived within a week.

For everyone to get the most out of this ingenious invention, we decided to designate a whole room in our facility to it. While maintenance got to work and new carpet was laid, the activities team involved our arts and crafts group to decorate the interior.

Only one question remained, what should we call this new entertainment hub for our residents?

In order to show our gratitude to the woman who made all the difference, we found a date and time to invite her for the official opening of our Tovertafel room. A room at Martin Luther Homes that, as of now, will be called the ‘Sieglind D’Arcy Room’.

Martin Luther Homes CEO, Birgit Goetz, didn’t hesitate long to find a date and invite Sieglind for a small and Covid-safe, yet fun, opening event to celebrate the achievement. In addition, two other parties weren’t allowed to miss the event. Of course, our residents were first on the VIP list but SBS reporter Adrian Plitzco had to attend as well.

Our generous sponsor Sieglind D’Arcy & CEO Birgit Goetz.

Having gone full circle, it was a proud moment for the team at Martin Luther Homes to officially put the new magic table on display. It wasn’t only to show Adrian that his fundraiser interview had lead to a true success but to also show Sieglind that her money was well spent and that this new technology truly does make a difference in the lives of older Australians.

“In most cases, it is hard to truly motivate and engage people who have dementia. But thanks to the Tovertafel, you can see within minutes that people start to smile and that positive memories and emotions come to the surface”. Birgit Goetz, CEO Martin Luther Homes

Of course, both Adrian and Sieglind, spent some quality around the table alongside our residents, playing fun games such as ‘hit the mole’ or ‘catch the fish’.

“This device is so much fun, it really highlights that we don’t have to always behave like adults, that sometimes we can just let go, play and have fun.” Sieglind D’Arcy

The Tovertafel does have his own room at Martin Luther Homes and is a consistent part of the daily lifestyle program. There are many different games to choose from and even the physiotherapists have started to take advantage of this new technology, using it for gentle exercises and other physical training sessions.

If you want to find out how the official Opening Day went, simply tune into the SBS German podcast. And for all of you who don’t understand German, let us assure you that we had a wonderful time and that some of our residents would have missed lunch if we didn’t remind them to take a break every now and then.

Listen to the official opening of the Tovertafel on SBS German.