At the beginning of lockdown East London Cares connected Anthony, 69, and Shams, 32, for regular phone calls. Here Shams tells the tale of their friendship – including nail varnish advice and namesake tomatoes – and how Shams has learnt "that people can connect and form friendships in all sorts of ways no matter what their age."
My name is Shams and I have been volunteering with East London Cares for about six months. I found out about it from a pal at work who is also a volunteer. I’d been to a couple of social clubs and loved catching up with the older neighbours and getting to know them better so I thought Phone a Friend would be a great way to build an even more meaningful friendship with an older neighbour who maybe wasn’t as mobile or confident about going out and about. Lockdown had just been imposed and I felt Phone a Friend would be a great way of making a less mobile older neighbour feel more connected in these isolating and worrying times.
I was buddied up with Anthony who is fun-loving and incredibly friendly. I admire him so much; he’s battled through some extremely tough times with his health but has such a positive attitude. It’s really incredible and humbling and puts a lot of my own worries into perspective. I’d say he was fairly reserved when we started Phone a Friend and it’s nice to see that as our friendship has grown he's become more confident.
Over the last few months we’ve chatted about so many things; films, plants and gardening, the pandemic, politics, Homerton, our favourite pubs, our families, my job, Anthony’s old job! But particular highlights are talking about cooking and food. Anthony is from St Lucia originally, and every now and then he’ll give me cooking tips for authentic Caribbean food which is great. He’s been growing tomatoes and has even named one after me which still makes us laugh!
I helped him to use Whatsapp video calls and it was lovely for us to meet each other virtually. He even commented on my nail varnish, saying he thinks I’d suit more vibrant colours which made me chuckle and just goes to show that people can connect and form friendships in all sorts of ways no matter what their age.
I’d definitely recommend Phone a Friend to others. It’s a great way to make an older neighbour feel heard and supported. You'd be surprised how much it means to them and you’ll gain a friend yourself!
Inspired by Anthony and Shams' friendship? Sign up to get involved with Phone A Friend here.
Posted by Rosa Friend on Tuesday 21st July 2020
Rosa Friend is East London Cares' Head of Programmes. She's been with the Cares Family for four years, previously developing our outreach programme and leading the teams at South London Cares, Liverpool Cares and Manchester Cares.