Volunteers' Week runs from 1-7 June, and this year’s theme is “saying thanks”. Whilst our programmes focus on mutual fun and friendship rather than the traditional sense of volunteering, we wanted to celebrate members of our network who have gone over and above to support their younger and older neighbours.
Nathan began volunteering on our Social Clubs programme at the beginning of 2020 when he first attended our Film Club in Elephant & Castle. Since then, he has attended a whopping 23 Virtual Social Clubs, and boy, what an asset he has been to our community!
After missing the opportunity to perform during the peak of lockdown, Nathan asked us if he could run a Virtual Social Club to put on a little concert for the neighbours. Fast forward 9 months, and Nathan’s Virtual Acoustic Hour has been such a hit that it is now a regular fixture in our programme.
Nathan has given so much to support the community through his music, and older and younger neighbours have enjoyed many moments of connection over their favourite songs.
Flashback to Nathan’s first Virtual Acoustic Hour when his guitar was stuck back home in Ireland, so he treated the neighbours to his rustic acapella vocals. What a hero
Next, meet younger neighbour Rosie, who first got involved with South London Cares more than three years ago. Since then, she's been matched with one of her older neighbours, Brian, through our Love Your Neighbour programme, and the pair have enjoyed coming along to Social Clubs together (Desert Island Discs has been a firm favourite!). Recently, Rosie also took part in our remote relay event, raising money and running 10km as part of our community fundraising team.
"There have been so many times when I've been in a bad mood from a rubbish day at work, but this is quickly forgotten when I am dancing with my older neighbours to Diana Ross at the Desert Island Discs social club, or laughing with Brian at his tales of being a pub landlord in the 70s.”
Thank you, Rosie, for the time, energy, joy and fun that you've brought to all of our different programmes. We think you're a star
Adam was introduced to us by our Corporate Partner, Tideway, as part of their corporate volunteering sessions. Adam enjoyed our clubs so much that he joined our other programmes as a younger neighbour and has been immersed in the network ever since. Spot him in the centre of the image below dancing away at a Desert Island Discs club last year.
“I really enjoy the Social Clubs when I can get along to them, they really don’t feel like volunteering. They help me connect with people who live in my local area that I would never connect with otherwise. The Social Clubs on Zoom during lockdown really were enjoyable, and helped my mental wellbeing and sense of purpose during a time that was challenging and unknown for all of us. I can’t wait to come along to one of the in-person quiz nights soon, and hopefully win for the first time!”
Adam perfectly describes why the word “volunteering” doesn’t always work to describe our Social Clubs. What might begin as an experience of corporate volunteering can quickly turn into a community of locals connecting online.
So, this Volunteers' Week, we also want to shout out those who no longer feel like volunteers!
We met Anya and Bex from Brixton Life Drawing last year, and from fundraising to facilitating Virtual Social Clubs, they have brought joy, creativity and energy in bucket loads. Anya spoke about why the pair have been inspired to volunteer their time at South London Cares.
"We love everything South London Cares offers to our community. During the pandemic, loneliness and isolation were at an all-time high, and we were blown away by the sense of community South London Cares has created.
We are already in talks planning our first ever in-person Life Drawing class with South London Cares once restrictions have eased! We are so excited to finally meet everyone after only seeing each other on Zoom over the past year.
South London Cares has a big place in our hearts and we are so happy we have been able to support you guys through our events over the course of the pandemic."
Thank you, Bex and Anya — we can't wait to meet you in person!
Throughout the last 15 months, more than 50 corporate volunteers and younger neighbours have kindly, patiently and diligently helped 66 older neighbours during 135 virtual tech support sessions. By setting up email addresses, downloading Zoom and building confidence in using the internet, older neighbours have been supported to join our Virtual Social Clubs and connect more easily to the world around them.
For some neighbours, their tech support calls have led to genuine friendships. Just like Anna and Jan, who first met during one of our corporate volunteering sessions. They got on so well that Anna signed up as a younger neighbour, and we matched the two of them on our Phone a Friend programme. They've since gone on to share many hours worth of phone calls, tech sessions and laughs!
Jan told us: “There is something very worthwhile in our friendship, there is just a warmth there and I feel I know her. It is a very rewarding thing from the donor and the recipient - there is a lot to be had from both sides from it.”
Anna said: “I feel really lucky. I was just wanting to contribute something to someone that would help them interact with people that they love, but I didn’t realise that I would start feeling like I really care about you, Jan, and that’s such a bonus for me, and she is such an inspiration for me.”
A huge thank you to everyone who has helped their neighbours to navigate the digital world!!
Last summer, when we were all still trying to get our heads around the impact of Covid, Lizzie, Megan, and Helen signed up to pilot our Community Callers project.
They were each matched with 3-4 older neighbours who they phoned every week or two from July to September. They checked in, provided conversation and companionship and identified any potential support requirements, which they then passed onto us.
During 71 calls totalling 36 hours, these Community Callers and their older neighbours discussed everything from cats to Carnival, gardens to grandkids, pubs to plants, and snooker to star signs! Lively, caring, funny, kind were just a few of the words they used to describe one another.
At a time many people were feeling isolated and disconnected, these conversations and friendships led neighbours to feel supported, excited, and positive. That is the power of community and connection.
Thank you, Nathan, Rosie, Adam, Anya, Bex, Anna, Lizzie, Megan, Helen and every single one of our volunteers and neighbours who have gone over and above to support the South London Cares community.
Posted by Matt Scaysbrook on Friday 4th June 2021
Matt manages our growing volunteer network and leads on reaching older south Londoners - introducing them to South London Cares and our programmes.