This week is Volunteer’s Week, a chance to pause and reflect on the big contributions people make in their communities. Since we first kicked off our programmes in October last year, younger neighbours have spent 658 hours with their older neighbours. We want to say a huge thank you to everyone who’s contributed their time, skills, stories and bad jokes, so that everyone feels a part of, and not left behind by, our rapidly changing world.
Over the last few months, during a challenging time for everyone, our younger neighbours have gone above and beyond to help their older neighbours in new ways – and have got so much back from their older neighbours in return. Below some of our volunteers have shared what inspired them to get involved, some highlights, the friendships they’ve made, and what it’s like to volunteer at East London Cares:
I genuinely have so many fantastic memories and experiences [of volunteering with East London Cares] - a few notable moments definitely include a marathon sing-along at Drag Queen Karaoke. We all belted out our favourite Christmas carols, sipped radiator-warmed mulled wine and scoffed mince pies
I’ve been lucky enough to go to a wonderful variety of clubs during my time as a volunteer, but the sense of community we are building and the feelings of comfort, connection and friendship are what keep me coming back. I wanted to get involved as I’d had some tough times feeling lonely in the big old city, and I wanted to put down deeper roots in my community. I have learnt so much about my neighbours and my community’s history, had some of the most interesting (and juicy!) conversations, and really established a sense of belonging with glorious folk I wouldn’t have otherwise met.
I lucked out with Cheese and Wine evening being my first social club, and then followed that up with a hilarious night at the Pub Quiz before meeting one of the kindest old neighbours at the Brunch Club. Meeting all the witty characters with interesting backstories has been a particular highlight of mine, and I leave every club feeling like I’ve taken something good away with me.
Topping it all has to be the Love Your Neighbour programme and being partnered with Maggie. Unfortunately, the Covid-19 lockdown struck but we’ve still managed to see each other weekly when I drop a few groceries around, and she cracks me up from her doorstep.
It’s been great becoming part of a community with nice and likeminded people, and I’m thankful to East London Cares for the good memories and offering something I didn’t even realise I needed.
I first heard about East London cares via an initiative at my workplace. I've had strong relationships with older people throughout my life and as soon as I read about the concept it struck a massive chord with me. It’s amazing to get to meet people from different backgrounds and cultures that all live in your local area. The Social Clubs are amazing icebreakers and fit in well with my busy work schedule, plus have had me doing activities I'd never usually take part in. I've made a lasagne the size of a football pitch, written poetry and come last in several pub quizzes. One of my favourite memories was at Creative Writing, sharing memories of the local area with my new older friend Greg and then writing a poem about each other's stories
I signed up as one of the first Phone a Friend volunteers in the hope of giving some company to an isolated neighbour during the Covid-19 lockdown. Val, the amazing woman I ring twice a week, has definitely become just that, a friend. She inspires me every time we talk and we often stay on the phone for well over an hour
She has never-ending stories and anecdotes and has lived through some incredible times. She’s been through some hard times and good times and in her own words ‘Life will either make you or break you’ There hasn’t been a phone call so far when she hasn’t recited this to me. Something I think can resonate with everyone, especially during a pandemic. I find it fascinating that after just over a month I feel I already know her so well, yet I don’t even know what she looks like! Showing that friendships can form through a good old chat on the phone and listening to one another. She often describes to me what she thinks I look like from my voice and we both look forward to the day when this is all over and we can meet in person and continue what has become a wonderful friendship.
I was inspired to get involved after reading a newspaper article about the rise in social isolation. I’ve got so much out of the clubs (all on Zoom so far, as I only signed up just before lockdown). What I love most is the friendly and informal sense of connection between older and younger people that doesn’t feel contrived. It’s just naturally supportive and affectionate.
My favourite club so far was ‘fibbage’, where we all told a personal true story, embellished with one falsehood, which everyone else had to guess. It was so much fun! Everyone’s got a story to tell. Recently I’ve also been running a fortnightly session for ELC on wellbeing – using my professional skills as a coach and mindfulness teacher to help people learn techniques to feel more calm and grounded. It’s been lovely to offer something that people seem to appreciate.
I originally started volunteering as I wanted to connect with more people in my community, older and younger, to hopefully create lasting relationships with them in a city that can sometimes be lonely. It has been so wonderful to speak to people who live such different lives to me, create lasting friendships and get involved with all of the fantastic social clubs the team organise. It is a bunch of friends hanging out doing fun things and talking about life and I love that age is so irrelevant in that. It has been especially lovely during lockdown when everyone has been a lot more isolated than usual and Pictionary, Desert Island Discs and book clubs have brightened my day as well as everyone else involved.
We need more volunteers! If you’re inspired to get involved, you can sign up here: eastlondoncares.org.uk/get-involved.
Posted by Sasha Khan on Friday 5th June 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.