“Did you hear about the punster who was arrested in Hackney last night?”
“Yeah, bit of a Mare, that one.”
That’s a cheesy way of introducing myself as a Hackney local, born and bred who spent most of her teenage-hood at the Mare Street chippy.
When I joined the Cares Family as a volunteer in June 2018, I never imagined that just over a year later I would be one of the team starting up East London Cares, continuing the mission to bridge the gap between communities: reducing isolation and loneliness amongst older people and young professionals alike with strong friendships and connections across the generations.
Rewinding further still to when I graduated and moved back to London from Brighton in 2017, it was these types of deep connections that I was longing for. University can be a fantastic experience, but can also be a bubble in which you mix mainly with other younger people with shallow roots in a city you are all new to. On returning back to Hackney, a place that’s always been home, I suddenly found that I went from having a readily available pool of friends living nearby whilst studying, to seemingly very few – friends after graduation were now travelling, moving to new cities or other hometowns or travelling the world. London is an incredible melting-pot of energy, vibrancy and culture in abundance – I just needed a new group of friendly faces to share it with!
On the off chance my friend mentioned a charity called North London Cares, and I thought I would take the plunge and attend one of their social clubs. I was hooked instantly. I felt part of a community in a way I had never before, and hearing personal stories from older neighbours with a wealth of historic and local knowledge gave me a totally new perspective on a city I claimed to know inside out. Hearing these stories whilst beatboxing or hand-jiving made them all the more unforgettable.
Joining East London Cares as the Volunteer and Outreach Coordinator and being able to help spread the word feels fantastic. As somewhat of a chatter-box, I am looking forward to talking with older and younger people not only about the Social Clubs, but also the Love Your Neighbour programme and Winter Wellbeing project that we that will be running, whilst getting to know them individually. Wintertime can be difficult for all of us, but older people can be particularly vulnerable. With our programmes, we will ensure more people stay safe and comfortable in their homes, and connected and engaged with their communities. Levels of gentrification and change are rapid in east London, but community-minded people who believe in the power of the local remain. They just need to be connected up and amplified amongst the jam-jar cocktail bars and expensive coffee shops.
When I was a volunteer, friends used to lightly tease me for spending all my time talking about how wonderful all the older people I had met were, so I am glad I can now put it to use for the day job and encourage others to get involved!
If you’d like to connect with your older neighbours, sign up to volunteer here. We’ll invite you to a volunteer induction (our first is taking place on October 8th), and you’ll be ready to join us at one of our first social clubs in October.
Posted by Sasha Khan on Thursday 19th September 2019
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.