For the three months before my move to South London Cares, I worked for North London Cares as an Outreach Officer on the Winter Wellbeing programme. The project helps residents of Camden and Islington who are 65 years of age and over to stay warm, healthy, active and connected during the coldest months of the year.
The project was far reaching, and I had the joy of being exposed to all sorts of incredible stories and experiences. On my second day, I met Rudi, who showed us how his flat doubled as his very own art studio. I was amazed by how talented he was! Rudi said he loved talking about his work, but didn't get much chance to, so was very pleased to hear about our programmes.
In my second week, I met John, whose lung condition was so bad that he couldn’t leave his flat. He was trapped and isolated, and all he wanted was to ‘get out and feed the ducks’. We referred him to a community partner, SSAFA, and they recently provided him with his very own mobility scooter. John has got his life back, and can now feed the ducks whenever he likes.
I also met 99-year-old Joan, who needed some warm clothing to help her through the cold weather, but was allergic to our dark coloured items. We made a direct appeal to our Facebook community for help and were soon inundated with brightly coloured hats, scarfs and gloves! It was incredibly warming to experience such kindness and generosity, so much so that I wrote a blog about the experience.
The work I was doing with North London Cares felt special. We were having a genuinely positive impact on neighbours' lives, and I learnt that this was the case across the Cares Family of charities. I wanted to continue being a part of it and was, therefore, absolutely delighted to be offered the role as Volunteer & Outreach Coordinator for South London Cares (after a rather intense selection process!).
As I started my new role, I naturally focused on how my experiences varied in the North and South of the city. Some of the processes are different. So, too, are the boroughs of Southwark and Lambeth, which are rich in their very own history. I’ve been a Lambeth resident for the last five years, and although I have explored my local area, there is still so much to see and learn!
I am becoming acquainted with a brand new network of community partners, like the Strength and Balance team at Guys Hospital. I visited them in my first week and met older neighbours Susan, Anthony, and Winifred, who were all very keen to join our social clubs. Our relationships with other organisations are vital to what we do, and how we do it, and I’m eager to build and develop these relationships.
Most importantly, the people are new to me. There are a lot of South London older neighbours to get to know! Like Mary, Luisa and Hazel, who I met at a Technology Workshop this week. They were incredibly warm and welcoming, and had a lot of useful wisdom and advice for me! In return, it was great to help them build confidence in the use of their electronic devices so they can connect more quickly and easily with the people and places around them. The ability to do this is something I take for granted, and I now realise how isolating technology can be if you don't know how to use it.
I'm also now the point of contact for our fantastic network of volunteers, encouraging more to join us and supporting those who already have. Last week I led an induction and welcomed 28 kind and energetic young professionals into our community. I’m excited to spend time getting to know our younger neighbours and benefitting from all of the skills and passion that they bring with them.
As I settled into the role, and I noticed more differences between the North and the South, I also started to appreciate the similarities.
We are separate charities in different parts of London, with unique networks of neighbours and partners. But beyond that, we have so much in common. South London Cares shares its values, beliefs and aspirations with the other Cares charities of North London, Manchester and Liverpool.
These values include openness, kindness, patience, generosity, inclusivity, common humanity, approachability, honesty, reliability, humour, understanding, compassion, empathy, creativity, connection, belonging. The list could go on!
As I noticed these qualities, I began to realise that they represent an ideal that is central to what we do: they represent the characteristics of any successful friendship.
South London Cares, like our sister charities, creates genuine, authentic and long-standing friendships by basing our values on precisely that; friendship. And this provides real strength to the communities and individuals involved. It creates the opportunity and confidence for neighbours to develop a deeper understanding and appreciation of their neighbourhood, and the people within it, in a trustworthy and sociable environment.
So, if you haven’t already, then come and join us. You’ll meet amazing people, share old stories, create new ones, have a lot of fun, and get to explore the wonders of this magical and FRIENDLY city!
Posted by Matt Scaysbrook on Thursday 18th April 2019
Matt manages our growing volunteer network, and leads on reaching older south Londoners - introducing them to South London Cares and our programmes. Previously Matt worked as a Personal Trainer in various parts of London, and before that was an officer with the Metropolitan Police.