12 months ago, we kicked off our programmes at East London Cares, bringing together older and younger neighbours in Tower Hamlets and Hackney to share time, laughter and new experiences together. Following in the footsteps of our sibling charities North London Cares, South London Cares, Manchester Cares and Liverpool Cares, we wanted to connect those who often live side-by-side, but who may not often interact.
In an area as fast-paced as east London, we know that older and younger people alike can at times feel left behind, rather than part of, this rapid pace of change. While some older people may have lost social connections over the years, younger people may likewise be new to the city, or want to deepen their roots in their local neighbourhoods. So, by bringing older and younger neighbours together to enjoy mutually beneficial friendship, there can be a deepened shared sense of connection, community, purpose and power, and social, generational, digital, cultural and attitudinal divides can be bridged.
And what better way to bring the generations together then over, say, an evening of Drag Queen Karaoke? Or perhaps a Pizza Party, a Hackney Museum tour, a gig by a Bengali Orchestra, or a Quiz Evening, as was the case at our first ever Social Club. It was a drizzly October evening, but inside the joviality and silliness, you wouldn’t have known. After our first club, Jill (70) told us, “I'm so glad I went! I felt all energised afterwards. I thought it was just so good and what a lovely mix of people! I loved meeting all the younger neighbours, it really brought the place to life. I'm really looking forward to all the ones to come”.
Since that rainy October night, we’ve held 146 Social Clubs, including 49 virtually, all over east London, and older and younger neighbours have shared almost 200 hours together at clubs. We also held a Winter Wellbeing project to support our older neighbours keep warm, active and connected during the challenging winter months, where we had over 800 face-to-face conversations to help people out. Neighbours have also connected for one-to-one friendships through our Love Your Neighbour programme and Phone a Friend project, and 28 older and younger neighbours have shared almost 500 hours in-person, and over the phone.
Over the past year we’ve also been lucky enough to be able to celebrate the diversity and history of what makes east London so special. Older and younger neighbours have enjoyed performances from the Grand Union Orchestra, celebrated Black fashion at the Hackney Museum, learnt more about Somali print-making and attended Racial Awareness workshops together. As a charity we’ve sharpened our anti-racism focus, and look forward to deepening this work and celebrating the communities that contribute to the cultural fabric of Tower Hamlets and Hackney.
While the Covid-19 pandemic posed challenges for our network, and we’ve missed seeing our older and younger neighbours face-to-face, we’ve been heartened and moved by how the east London community has continued to look out for, and look after, one another. Whether that be checking in with each other at our virtual Social Clubs or over the phone, helping our small team with emergency food shops for shielding neighbours, or writing each other letters of hope and encouragement through our Alone Together postal activity packs, it has been nothing short of inspiring to see.
To all of you who are part of East London Cares; our community partners, donors, challenge fundraisers, and our younger and older neighbours, happy birthday. Here’s to you!
Posted by Sasha Khan on Thursday 15th October 2020
Sasha is the Volunteer and Outreach Coordinator at East London Cares, reaching older and younger neighbours and connecting them to our Social Clubs, Love Your Neighbour programme and Winter Wellbeing project. Previously Sasha has worked at Age UK and Coram, and volunteered at our sibling charity North London Cares.