Since June 2018, I have walked, talked, danced, snacked and created works of art with some of London’s most brilliant minds. You might rush past them in the street after another exhausting day at work, or pass them in the supermarket to grab something for tea. But if you were to volunteer with South London Cares, you might be lucky enough to get to meet some of them.
I joined after months of analysis paralysis; wanting to be able to volunteer for so many different charities yet never getting round to actually doing anything. I finally made it to a South London Cares induction evening and I knew I was in good company, with people who just wanted to share their time with others.
Already I have so many great memories from all of the different activities; listening to people recall their childhood during a visit to a city farm is one of my favourites, as we all sat round and met chicks, ducklings, guinea pigs, a very sturdy goat and a show-off turkey. And then there’s being able to admire a genuine Vermeer in Buckingham Palace whilst flanked by two older friends - one of whom decided I could be her honorary daughter. I laughed so much that day!
It is so easy to get wrapped up in the minutiae of your own life, but when you meet people who have fled wars and tragedy, you quite rightly forget about yourself. The neighbours have often worked at some amazing places and have wicked senses of humour. You just want to listen to everything they have to say and find out more.
What strikes me the most is how much everyone benefits from the time spent together, not just the older neighbours. Recently, at my third Tech Workshop - where people can come along with their gadgets so you can help with problems, answer questions and just be there for a natter - I felt a bit frustrated with myself because I couldn’t fix the problem someone was having. But she didn’t seem to mind and even made a point of saying that she’d had such a lovely time laughing and talking. And that felt good. Really good.
As someone who is not currently working and has various mental health conditions, I often find it hard to get myself to even go outside. But South London Cares gives me the strength to get out there and just be myself. You meet others who may be quieter, louder or just the same as you, it really doesn’t matter what type of personality you have, the only thing that matters is that you show up.
Posted by Róisín Grasby on Sunday 24th February 2019
Róisín has been volunteering at South London Cares Social Clubs since June 2018.