When I moved from Ireland to London, the first thing that struck me was how quickly life moves here; it sometimes seems as if the whole city is in a hurry. People are always on the go and places are constantly changing. In the small town where I grew up, public transport is almost non-existent, so I’m really enjoying being able to hop on a tube to visit friends all over London. The fact that new coffee shops and cocktail bars keep springing up means that we never run out of places to meet up and in a city of such diversity, we’re spoiled for choice when it comes to food. I love living somewhere so busy and exciting, but one thing I miss about my hometown is the sense of community. Where I’m from, everybody knows everybody, so it still feels strange to walk to the shops and back without bumping into a friend or a neighbour.
Recently, I came across some photographs from my grandparents’ wedding. I discovered that they got married in East Dulwich in the sixties - a south London connection that I didn’t realise I had. Looking at these pictures made me think about just how much life in London has changed and I realised that I didn’t know much about the history of the area in which I now live. My friends and I have chosen our favourite cafes and restaurants, but I’ve never stopped to wonder what these buildings used to be, or who used to socialise in them. Sadly my grandparents aren’t around any more and much as I would have loved to hear stories from people who lived here when they did, I didn’t really know anybody who had those stories to tell. Without family connections in the local area, I hardly ever crossed paths with people from my grandparents’ generation.
That changed when I stumbled across the South London Cares website. I really enjoyed reading about the people who’d been brought together by its programmes and knew that it was something I’d like to be involved in. As I’ve settled into my new role, I’ve had a chance to chat to lots of older neighbours, many of whom have lived in South London for their entire lives and have fascinating stories to tell. I’ve heard about people’s childhoods, the jobs that they used to do and the adventures that they’ve had. I’ve told them a bit about my life too and how much I’m enjoying living in London for the first time. We've had some really nice conversations, which have made me feel more at home here and provided that sense of community that I’ve been missing.
I’m really happy to have joined the South London Cares team, leading the Love Your Neighbour programme in Southwark. This programme brings younger and older neighbours together for weekly visits and is all about friendship, togetherness and community. Many young people like me have wide social circles but don’t feel a connection to the areas in which they live. For older neighbours, the opposite is often true; they have lots of stories and memories of South London but not many people with whom to share them. When asked to explain what I liked most about the programme, the first thing that came to mind was an Irish saying: ‘ar scáth a chéile a mhaireann na daoine’. It translates (roughly) as ‘people survive in each other’s shadows’, which I think is a good way to describe the mutual benefits that the programme brings to both older and younger neighbours. These groups have so much to learn from and share with one another and I’m really looking forward to bringing them together by creating lots of new friendships across Southwark. If you’re interested in getting involved, feel free to email me at [email protected], I’d love to hear from you!
Posted by Eleanor Younge on Monday 7th October 2019
Eleanor leads on our Love Your Neighbour programme in Southwark, connecting younger and older neighbours one-to-one for weekly visits and longterm friendship. Previously Eleanor worked for an international development charity in Ireland.