I know from experience that so many young people in London are always so busy buzzing around between working and socialising. It is really easy to get swept up all the excitement of new things to eat, drink and do in London, and forget that there are people that aren’t able to get out and experience those things or don’t have anyone to spend their spend their days with.
I only moved to south London 4 years ago, and I started volunteering for South London Cares because I wanted to get to know some of my older neighbours who’ve been living here their whole lives, to learn about their experiences growing up here and bring a bit of the new excitement of London to them.
It's easy to feel like you are too busy to fit anything else into your life, but actually when I started visiting Joyce I realised how such a small amount of my time, just a couple of hours a week, means so much to her. I'm so glad to call Joyce a friend now.
Joyce also means a lot to me. She’s hilarious – she's always making jokes or coming out with expressions that I don’t understand, and we spend most of our time together laughing. It's really nice to know that I'm able to give her some of the little things that I take for granted, that she can enjoy too rarely these days – chatting, cooking dinner or having coffee with a friend.
And she really loves her flat, so I can help her keep it lovely by doing little odd-jobs like putting up curtains; little things that she would struggle to do herself.
I love the feeling of community at South London Cares. I’ve got my friends involved by joining in with pub quizzes to raise money for the activities, and of course at Christmas we had a little party at Joyce's flat. That's something I'll never forget.
My first social club was Pub Club in Kennington. I met Ibrahim and Karim, two old friends from Iraq and Syria. They both told me a lot of incredibly eye opening things about their culture and home countries, which I would never have known otherwise. I remember walking home smiling from ear to ear thinking about what I’d heard and shared with these two.
I’ve found over the months that the neighbours are genuinely fascinated by the lives we lead in London, though I would argue, not as much as I am in theirs.
Being around the older neighbours, discussing the trials and successes of their lives has both touched and inspired me.
People look at us [Rita and I] and I can see them trying to figure out why we’re hanging out together which makes us laugh. I feel like she’s one of my best friends now. She tells me that I’m a bit like a daughter to her.
She’s so honest and speaks her mind – I’ve learnt a lot from her. I really love spending time with Rita and helping her to get out and about more. She’s a go getter – and inspires me to make the most of life.
Margaret is a really kind person - she's one of the most caring and supportive people I know.
We talk a lot about what's happening in the world - she's very switched on and although we’re different in many ways, we actually share a similar perspective on life so it's always fun and interesting. In the summer, we sit outside in the sunshine and sing along to soul music together.
Our relationship has taught me a lot about friendship - we dedicate time to each other, when we're there to talk and listen to each other and I'm not worrying about checking my phone, what I've got to do that day, or what's happening in the rest of my life. I’m completely present. It's a special thing.
I started volunteering with South London Cares in early 2016, after reading how older people in the community often felt lonely and isolated. I wanted to spend my free time doing something meaningful, did a bit of research into the various volunteering opportunities, and after seeing how easy it was to volunteer with South London cares I signed up immediately.
My favourite moment is probably volunteering to go to the ceilidh, last minute. I had been feeling rather blue all day, and not in a particularly fun or outgoing mood. After spending 15 minutes chatting to the neighbours, trying to figure out the moves (hand-eye-foot co-ordination is not my strong suit) and twirling around the dancefloor my spirits were lifted and I felt 100 times better. I always have a happy, warm feeling after going to a social club, and I really needed it that day. It’s this feeling, and the friendships that I’ve built, that keep me coming back every month.
I signed up in May 2016 and attended my first club the next month.
It was a Tech Workshop and I helped Rani learn how to attach photos to her emails on her iPhone, so she could share them with her family. She was so delighted and excited to get sharing! It was an incredible first social club experience. There have been so many clubs and so many memorable moments since then.My favourite moments are when, completely unexpectedly, you find you have something or somewhere in common with your older neighbour.
Not a club has passed by without me laughing. Not once has a club felt like it’s an effort. Every time I leave a club, I go out in a brighter mood and with a fuller heart than when I walked in. I know that sounds exaggerated, but it really is true. To think that our older neighbours could be getting the same little lift in spirits as I know I do, that’s what keeps me coming back.