"It can feel lonely being a social introvert."

Mateja has been volunteering for two years. In this blog, she explains why she cherishes the company of her community – and how those friendships have inspired her to walk 100km from London 2 Brighton for South London Cares. 

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It can feel lonely being a social introvert and devoting most of the time to people you know very well. It can also feel lonely when you work round-the-clock, get consumed by work and when your work-life balance becomes a conundrum. That is me

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Now imagine being 103 years of age and not having those connections. Not being able to leave your house. Not speaking the language of the country you live in and having to leave your own country because of a war. Imagine living in a small flat filled with books as your only company. Well, that is Stephanie, my Love Your Neighbour match, and a fellow Croatian.

Stephanie is one of the most positive, warm, welcoming and witty women I have ever met. Although I’ve only known her for a short while, she has already brought a new perspective to my life. The time spent with her has reminded me how important it is to let go of the little inconveniences in life and appreciate small things. Through spending time with her, I am also learning I need to broaden my awareness of people around me. 

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Loneliness and isolation can be devastating and a friendly face and a chat can make all the difference to older neighbours. Which is why it is so valuable and important that organisations like South London Cares exist in our communities. They’re focusing on bringing neighbours together through social clubs and all the other worthy projects they organise.

Volunteering for South London Cares is an enriching experience and I always come out of their social clubs feeling I receive more than I give. That is why I decided to take part in the London 2 Brighton challenge this May and walk 100k (again); to give something back by raising money and giving more people the opportunity to feel the way Stephanie and I do when we hang out. Or the way Cait and I feel when we catch up – she’s another inspiring older neighbour I met through South London Cares who shared some wonderful stories and advice with me and someone who always leaves me with a broad smile on my face.

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It’s a challenge I’ve taken on before. Indeed, walking the 100k last year from London 2 Cambridge was an experience I will never forget. It was by far the most demanding physical (and mental) activity I’ve ever done. Exercise and I don’t get along and are yet to form a meaningful relationship, so to put my body through 26 hours of non-stop walking was quite a challenge. But it was also one of the most rewarding and satisfying things I have ever done. The support and donations from friends and family, the amazing volunteers you meet on the walk, the sense of achievement at the end, and the appreciation you receive from older neighbours make it all worthwhile and have motivated me to do it again this year.

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Being involved with South London Cares has challenged me outside my comfort zone in more ways than one, but in a meaningful way as I feel I get to give back to the community. I will always be thankful to South London Cares and older neighbours for providing me with enhanced appreciation of life’s joys. I hope to give some of that back by taking on a challenge for our older neighbours in 2017. 

Mateja Osonjacki

Posted by Mateja Osonjacki on Monday 6th February 2017

Mateja has been volunteering for South London Cares for two years, and has already walked a total of 150km in aid of the charity.

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