A smile can go a long way. It’s such as simple gesture which, whilst working as a pharmacist in London over the past 2 years, really brightened my long, and often stressful days. Personal interactions, from a simple smile and genuine thank you, to fascinating conversations with people I ordinarily wouldn’t get to know, left me feeling uplifted for the rest of the day, even when being shouted at by angry patients!
I slowly realised however, that for some, this short time spent chatting away with me, was maybe their longest conversation of the day, or even week. It emphasised the importance of not only connecting with others, but feeling visible and supported by your community. Being born and bred in Streatham, I never felt as connected with my neighbourhood as I’d have liked, especially as the area was constantly changing, from the closing down of Woolworths (something I’m still getting over), to never knowing which supermarket is currently occupying the building next to Streatham station (it will always be Safeway to me!).
So last year, when I came across South London Cares, a local charity which I discovered aimed to bring people together and bridge generational, societal and cultural gaps, I was intrigued, and signed up immediately. At the volunteer induction, I was inspired by the organisation’s ethos, and as I started attending social clubs, it felt amazing to be part of a group of diverse, unique people of different ages, who just wanted to connect with each other.
Meeting people from all walks of life, and learning about different cultures is something I’ve always been fascinated by. Over the past few years, I’ve been able to do more of it while volunteering abroad in places such as Ecuador, Kenya, Greece and Guatemala. While my voluntary roles were based on my interest in sustainable ways of helping others, I was only motivated to pursue this as a career last year, while volunteering with a small charity in Peru. I was completely blown away by the people I worked with. Their pure kindness, boundless enthusiasm and selfless will to help others made me realise how much I valued working with such individuals, and that I wanted to continue to do so, for a cause I truly believe in.
Cue... South London Cares! When the opportunity arose to work with an organisation I really believed in, I grabbed it with both hands! And after just a week of working here, it’s been inspiring to be part of such a friendly team, who care so much about what they do, and the people they work with. Over the next 6 months, I’ll be working as South London Cares’ Outreach Officer. I’ll be focussing predominantly on our Winter Wellbeing Project, helping our most isolated and vulnerable older neighbours stay warm, active and connected during the chilly winter months. I’m really looking forward to reaching out to people, and helping them to connect with their neighbours – just as I did when I first got involved with SLC last year.
Posted by Deepika Patel on Tuesday 10th October 2017
Deepika Patel is SLC's Outreach Officer. She previously volunteered at our social clubs while working as a pharmacist in Lambeth.