While I'm a new member of the South London Cares community, I am not so new to London. I have spent the last 15 years hopping on a train to visit my Dad here and chose to settle in North London with friends six years ago. London, in my mind, was always a place to seek new opportunities and explore things that were different.
Until last month, I had been working in the freelance creative industry. I have always wanted to make and create things and was so lucky to be able to work on many different film/photography projects. I was focused on that path and encouraged by what I saw as a very social industry and job role. As time passed, I often found myself working alone, with many job opportunities cancelled on short notice with little or no communication. I felt detached and began to doubt not only my abilities but also my happiness. I was able to convince myself to keep at it because new projects meant a day out and about in London, meeting new suppliers in exciting places or reconnecting with previous ones who I had worked well with before. In time, however, I realised that I belonged somewhere else.
Things felt like they were changing and aligning when I saw that South London Cares was looking for someone to deliver the Winter Wellbeing project. Despite this being miles away from my creative role, I recognised that the attributes they were looking for were aspects of my personality that I had been neglecting. Instead of making music videos, I wanted to make new friends, and instead of creating costumes, I wanted to create deeper community connections. Applying to South London Cares took a good dose of self-reflection. I have worked in many different environments growing up; pubs, shops, and even the docks. Explaining to South London Cares why I wanted to be involved with their network allowed me to see what I value most; connecting and communicating with people. We lived with my Nan until I was 7, so I always enjoyed engaging in intergenerational activities. She always reminded me that lending an ear to someone is a simple gesture of kindness.
In my first week with South London Cares, I got a chance to reach out into our network and felt so welcomed. I went along with Enoch to a Tech Workshop, which was a great afternoon. I met older neighbour Luisa, and as well as bonding over our difficulties in using an android phone, we also connected through a small restaurant in Peru. Luisa had lived in Lima, a city I had visited in 2015 and remember so fondly. My favourite place to eat there was Club Lambayeque. It's not only an incredible restaurant but a social club for people from the Northern regions of Peru to meet and share their unique foods and cultures. Luisa's mother was from Lambayeque, and it struck me how social clubs, even those on the opposite side of the world, all share this ability to make new links between people and celebrate their shared joy. With so many free and diverse social clubs on offer all over Southwark and Lambeth, I know I'll have the pleasure of meeting even more of the Cares Family community in the coming months.
My first week was rounded off with a sunny morning visit to Eileen. Catching up with her meant providing her with a free blanket and thermal socks from our Winter Wellbeing project, and also discussing how we could work towards getting a more comfortable chair for her.
It was so engaging to meet Eileen and to spend time together, hearing about her life and discussing how best our programmes and network can be of support. Eileen's companion Mama kindly offered up her spot so I could take a seat while we chatted.
On Tuesday this week, Matt and I visited Time & Talents, which is a cherished community centre in Rotherhithe with a rich 132-year history. Cindy, from the Time & Talents team, spoke with us about the history of the community centre and the many opportunities, sessions and facilities they have to 'socialise and connect neighbours close and far to reduce isolation.' Working alongside community partners is vital to what we do at South London Cares. Each link we make strengthens the network; a chance to celebrate our community and all the ways it can support everyone who's part of it.
At the heart of delivering the Winter Wellbeing project is the effort to help neighbours over the age of 65 to stay warm, active and connected during winter. There are several ways that I can provide help. I can drop warm items to your door, and help to assess and improve energy efficiency in your home. I can find organisations to assist with financial issues if you are struggling in difficult circumstances, and also suggest which of the fantastic social clubs we organise that could be of interest.
I can't wait to explore every corner of Southwark and Lambeth; reaching out to individuals we want to warmly welcome in and also a chance to meet those who are the foundation of our ever-growing community.
Posted by Hannah Boulter on Thursday 24th October 2019
Hannah delivers our Winter Wellbeing project. She helps neighbours over 65, who live in Southwark and Lambeth, to keep warm, active and connected during the coldest months of the year. She previously worked as a Set Designer on creative freelance film and photography projects.