As people start to take down their Christmas tinsel and baubles, one south Norfolk care home will be carefully packing away some new decorations which hold fond memories of a sadly-missed volunteer.

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Staff at The Grove Leonard Cheshire Disability home, in East Carleton, were overwhelmed just before Christmas when they received a surprise parcel of gifts and colourful decorations posted almost 6,000 miles away in Japan.

In September 2007, a 24-year-old Japanese man called Keishi Morishita arrived at the home, near Wymondham, as an overseas volunteer and stayed for two years working alongside carers providing support and company for its 28 residents.

The popular young man, who was described as an ‘exceptional volunteer’, left the UK in September 2009 but was due to return in February last year. However staff heard the devastating news just two months later that Keishi, who lived in Nagasaki, had died of natural causes aged just 26.

The heartbroken residents compiled a book of condolence, translated by a fellow Japanese volunteer, which was sent to his family.

A Japanese garden Keishi had created in the home’s grounds, including a Koi Carp pond, was also turned into a memorial with a plaque placed at the picturesque spot in tribute to its ‘treasured friend’.

Then just as The Grove began gearing up to celebrate Christmas, a package arrived unexpectedly from Keishi’s mother filled with twinkling baubles and wreaths to decorate the home with and dozens of gifts which included a pen and pencil set for every member of staff and a flannel and hand towel bundle for every resident.

Brian Laws, Beech team leader at The Grove, said: “Someone said ‘look what we’ve received from Japan’. We didn’t know what it was, although we obviously thought it was something for the residents but it was amazing to see that everyone had been given a present. We were completely blown away by it. It was overwhelming for us.”

Keishi was educated at Nagasaki University and had previously worked voluntarily with the disabled in Japan. He had studied English for six years and had hoped to become a translator.

“He was the most charming, most loving person you could want to meet. You did not have to ask him for anything - he would just do it. He went over and above what you would expect him to do. He was an amazing guy and an exceptional volunteer,” said Mr Laws.

On Keishi’s death, he added: “It threw a curtain over the whole place. It was devastating. No-one could believe it. We were shocked.”

Leonard Cheshire Disability provides services for people with disabilities across the UK including care homes, supported living, day services, resource centres, respite care and training and assistance for those looking for work.

The Grove currently has 30 regular volunteers but is always looking for more who can help in terms of escorting residents on trips out, playing games or simply providing some company.

For more information, contact David Barrett by calling 01508 570279 or emailing david.barrett@lcdisability.org

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