It’s been a turbulent year of events and phenomena, from extreme weather ravaging across the world to the decline of the high street at home and divisive politics to name just a few. But amongst this, there have also been positive and powerful events and stories to reflect on. This is crucial for navigating through the often overwhelming feeling of living today – especially in our increasing social, generational, digital, cultural and attitudinal divides. What’s evident is the need for connection, conversation, collaboration and compassion in our communities and our society.
At South London Cares we’re a part of this movement to bring people together – people that wouldn’t normally get the chance to meet, have fun and learn from one another. As the new year approaches it’s a time for reflection and we want to look back and celebrate just some (19 for 2019) stories, neighbours and growth within our community.
1. Growing in confidence
Earlier this year, Social Club volunteer,Róisín, wrote about her experiences talking, walking, dancing, creating and snacking with her neighbours since June 2018. In her blog, she discusses the mutual benefits of attending Social Clubs for younger and older neighbours:
“South London Cares gives me the strength to get out there and just be myself.” Róisín (32)
2. Reclaiming Valentine’s Day
Back in February, we ran our first Valentine’s campaign across The Cares Family #LoveYourNeighbour. Valentine’s day is a day of love and this extends outside romantic relationships. In our communities, there are many stories of love and connection so we decided to share and celebrate some of our 73 Love Your Neighbour friendships at South London Cares. Our first fabulous friends shared were Val and Paula. They hang out every Monday evening and have been doing so for nearly four years. In Val's words, “we get on regardless of age – age doesn’t matter does it?”. Read their blog here to find out more about their extraordinary friendship. We also introduced Lisa and Delcene.
“When I’ve had a really stressful day at work, I really look forward to seeing her. She’s very good at seeing the bigger picture. She’s so wise! She’s a great influence to have in my life." Lisa (28)
3. Softening the effects of gentrification through Cocktails and Curiosity
In April, Linda and the gang muddled some mint and mixed some martinis at Three Eight Four in Brixton. New volunteer, Jonny, invited 15 neighbours to his bar to prove their cocktail credentials after attending our volunteer induction:
"I was really struck by the induction comments around the amount of isolation that older neighbours can feel when their local shops have changed into coffee shops and cocktail bars, and how the changing face of south London can really affect them; essentially what some people see as interesting and exciting they can see as a loss of amenity and isolating."
"We've opened venues around South London, obviously never with the intention of excluding anybody. However, I hate the idea of people thinking that a venue, be it a cocktail bar or coffee shop, isn't for them. I hoped that by introducing the neighbours to the hows, whats and whys of making cocktails we could make venues such as ours more appealing and approachable for neighbours. The fun aspect was the main factor, but the idea that the neighbours now feel a better understanding of venues such as the ones we've opened hopefully helps them feel less isolated and pushes their curiosity to visit a bit more."
4. Friendships blossoming
Alice and Peter first met at our Choir Social Club in 2018. After finding out they have lots in common, they decided to hang out together through our Love Your Neighbour programme. In this blog, we caught up with the pair and heard about their adventures across London at exhibitions, galleries, shows and more:
“With Peter, I’ve got a friend. I've found someone who I feel comfortable talking to. I’ve got someone who I might call if I was feeling a bit down or, if we meet up, someone I can talk with openly.” Alice (33)
5. Celebrating our volunteers
In June, younger and older neighbours from across The Cares Family shared their experiences and discussed the impact our volunteers have on our programmes as part of Volunteers’ Week 2019. One of the many brilliant stories shared was Corentin’s who talked about his experience of fundraising for South London Cares by running the Hackney Half marathon, and how he still had time to practice his Español!
“I was thrilled when I received a little video of support from the neighbours a couple of days before the race, wishing me luck. There's something really special in knowing that what you're doing can make a difference – even if it's small – to someone else's life.” Corentin (27)
In May we also ran our second Love Your Neighbour evening to bring younger neighbours together who, due to the one-to-one nature of the Love Your Neighbour programme, can sometimes seek extra support in their volunteering experience. To learn more about the evening's purpose and activities you can read more here.
6. Neighbours in focus: Marathon Mike
Mike has taken part in 70 marathons over his lifetime. Every time we want to inspire and support volunteers to take part in a marathon for us, we reshare our sit down interview with Mike and his top training tips. From his first London Marathon in 1983 until his last in 2013, Mike has formed two running clubs and run 70 marathons, and raised £30,000 for charity in the process.
7. More in Common
In June, South London Cares collaborated with The Great Together and hosted our own great together in our Social Club programme. The Great Get Together brings our communities together and celebrates all that unites us, inspired by Jo Cox and her belief that we have more in common than that which divides us.
In July, Dina, Saffina and 32 of their neighbours came together to recognise, celebrate and ‘stand in solidarity’ with the LGBTQ+ community.
August marked South London Cares' 5th birthday and, of course, we had a big party and lots of laughter, chatting and grooving. Anita (75) didn’t want to leave: “I can’t remember when I last had this much fun...I didn’t want the dancing to stop – can we do this every week?!”
Since our very first ever social club, we've belly-danced, beat-boxed and brick-layed our way through 1,200 social clubs, and mobilised 7,000 older and younger neighbours to share time, laughter and new experiences.
August also marked The Cares Family's 8th birthday and with our growing family now including North London Cares, Manchester Cares, Liverpool Cares, East London Cares and a network of 17,000 older and younger neighbours we put out our new animated film about the difference we can all make in our communities:
Summer can be an isolating and difficult time of the year for many of us for a multitude of reasons. One of the key reasons is the heat and the challenges it can bring. This summer we collaborated with Age UK Lewisham and Southwark to support neighbours to stay cool and safe during the summer months. Age UK provided us with hats, sun cream and good advice that we shared with our neighbours and network. This photo was from our 70s disco themed Desert Island Discs Social Club in Walworth:
11. Social Clubs in focus: Desert Island Discs to Desert Island Disco
Carrying on with the theme of Desert Island Discs and dancing, we learnt more about Katy’s (27) “favourite night of the month”. The club first began in 2016 when, like the radio show of its namesake, neighbours came with a song in mind and shared why it was meaningful to them. What started as an intimate, story-sharing social club has become increasingly popular over the years and is now one big boogie-town.
Whilst the storytelling element may have *ahem* slipped slightly, the joy and laughter that resonates throughout the room each month is still as strong as ever: "I love hearing songs I used to dance around my bedroom to. It's like going back to old memories." Bola (71)
12. Ready, steady, bake!
In September, South London Baked as we encouraged supporters to host fundraising bake-offs in their workplaces. One Love Your Neighbour match, Irene and Stephanie, absolutely love baking together so Irene shared her signature bake to inspire others to get baking.
13. Black History Month
When discussing the subject of black history, it's very easy to focus simply on the narrative of oppression – but we sought to learn from and be inspired by stories of strength, determination and success. In October, neighbours contributed to Social Clubs with a Black History Month focus, joining the rest of the UK in commemoration and celebration. We also learnt about our neighbour Audrey's life experiences and her activities spreading awareness of the Windrush generation through her son’s creativity here.
14. Rough Runners
In October, 15 rough runners braved obstacles, mud and the dreaded travelator to raise vital funds for South London Cares – with South London Cares team member, Buddy the dog, cheering/barking them on!
15. Friendships in focus: Bill and Ben
South Londoners and accomplished bassists Bill and Ben met in January (one of 31 new friendships made this year) through our Love Your Neighbour programme. We caught up with them in November to find out what they’ve been up to during their 40 hours of conversation and company so far:
“We have the same sense of humour. He’s an absolute joker! He’s listened to the band, and now he’s actually a fan. I’m glad I got his approval. He recently got a new bass and asked me to play for him. He left me a voicemail later saying ‘you’re f*ing good mate and I mean that!’ which is quite the compliment from Bill. He even asked me to play down the phone for his friend!” Ben (26)
“We talk about music a lot. My band was very different to Stereo Honey, Ben’s band, but I really like them. I give him lots of advice, you see because I went through it all myself.”
16. Winter Warmth and Wellbeing
In November we held our second ever Winter Warmer social club, to collaborate and connect our neighbours with our brilliant community partners and provide neighbours with any help they may need during the cold winter months, whether that be information, resources or activities. This supported our Winter Wellbeing project. Now in its 6th year, the project runs from October to March and involves reaching out to neighbours in Southwark and Lambeth who are 65 years old and above to make sure they have what they need to keep warm, active and connected during the cold, isolating winter months. To find out more about the event and the community partners involved read the blog here.
Rosie from St Johns Ambulance said; "It was brilliant to meet all the other organisations, find out more about what South London Cares are up to, and especially being able to meet the neighbours and gauge their interest in the programme we’re offering."
17. Darret’s community contribution
In November, we also met Darret (68), at her home in Southwark as part of our Winter Wellbeing project. Darret has been part of South London Cares for several years. Her favourite club is Choir in Peckham. She also loves gardening and, as you can see from the photo, she is very good at it!
The cold temperatures in winter make it harder for her to spend time outside and look after all of her flowers and plants. We provided her with some warm clothing and a thermos flask to support her to keep warm whilst she is creating a canvas of colour and beauty for her and her neighbours to enjoy. Thank you, Darret!
So far the Winter Wellbeing team have delivered 286 warm items to neighbours feeling the cold this winter.
18. Tony’s story
Last year we were introduced to Tony through our Winter Wellbeing project. He was referred to us last December and told us he was feeling lonely and struggling with the cold. We gave him a hat and a scarf and connected him to Parin through our Love Your Neighbour programme. A year on, find out how he is doing now:
Because of Tony and our community's support we were able to reach our target and raise £13,966 through The Big Give to fund our Winter Wellbeing – thank you.
19. Friendship, frolics and festivities
As an ode to the year, in December, boots were filled with mince pies and partying as Ellie and Reg joined their neighbours for an afternoon of food, conversation and good cheer at South London Cares’ annual Winter Party (one of 256 Social clubs hosted this year).
“I was greeted by welcoming smiles. The whole afternoon felt like a big family Christmas.” Arun (32) at his first-ever Social Club.
“It’s the first time I've danced in a very long time.” Tony (73 and from number 18) at his first-ever social club too.
This year we’ve welcomed 510 new neighbours into our community and we’re looking forward to who we’ll meet in 2020.
We want to thank all of our younger and older neighbours, fundraisers and partners for your valued friendship, belief and support. South London Cares really is a family and everyone involved plays such a vital role in making Southwark and Lambeth a better connected community. Next year is sure to bring more fun, laughter and learning and we can’t wait to share those special moments with you in 2020.
We’ll be kicking off January 2020 with a Green theme for our Social Club programme, hosting another Love Your Neighbour volunteer evening, using that new year resolution energy to inspire volunteers to take on a challenge for us and continuing to support our neighbours to keep warm, active and connected in one of the most challenging times of the year.
With love from the South London Cares team: Jasmin, Leighann, Eleanor, Olivia, Enoch, Matt, Hannah, Johanna, Jodie and Buddy the dog.
P.S. If you’d like to get in touch or get involved with South London Cares, we’d love to hear from you. You can message Jasmin at [email protected]
Posted by Jasmin White on Monday 30th December 2019
Jasmin is the Head of Programmes for South London Cares, managing and supporting our core team. Previously she was Programme Coordinator for Love Your Neighbour, connecting younger and older neighbours one-to-one for weekly visits and longterm friendship and worked for Headstart supporting young people to volunteer in their local community.