Thursday 28th January
Coffee in hand, (straight black, if you’re wondering), I start to work my way through my emails, checking out upcoming virtual events I can attend. Anything informing me of what’s going on across Camden & Islington this month are the ones to book. The ritual of heading to a local coffee shop before work is missed, but not the jam-packed tube! There are some perks to working from home.
Next up, tackling the to-do list - this never seems to get any shorter but I find it satisfying knowing exactly what to prioritise.
I start with my list of pending interventions. Today’s consist of some referral forms to complete for community partners Shine & WISH Plus. Shine & WISH Plus both offer free energy advice to our older neighbours, ensuring households get the help they need to reduce utility bills, tackle energy debt and ultimately stay well and warm.
Time for a virtual open house event with Adult Social Services along with my teammate Tilly, the Volunteer & Outreach Coordinator. Tilly and I introduce the Winter Wellbeing Project to attendees and answer any questions afterwards. Even though the presentation wasn’t face to face, I still get a tad nervous with all these little faces in front of me. Practice makes perfect though!
The classic line of ‘you’re on mute’ never fails to make an appearance at a virtual event, 5 months into the role and this still makes me giggle.
I catch up on a call to an older neighbour Elizabeth 84, who last week had a broken boiler, meaning she was without any heating or hot water. We chatted for a short while and despite her circumstances, she’s such a joy to speak with! Elizabeth said her boiler had now been fixed by the Islington Repairs Team and she was very grateful for receiving the hot water bottle, hat and warm socks I’d sent her. She even mentioned she was now sweating because she was that warm!
Lunch time came around quickly. Today’s consisted of a swift walk around Brockwell Park to get some time away from my screen and daylight, followed by a quick bite to eat – leftover Shakshuka on the menu.
I make a trip to the post office, managing to dodge the tedious, long queues. I post some socks, thermal flasks and some gloves to older neighbours Toto, 65 and Simon, 86 to help keep them toasty this winter, along with our February Social Club programmes. Hopefully sending our programmes out will help get some new neighbours into our wonderful social clubs to help reduce isolation.
Next up, I begin my Winter Wellbeing calls, calling residents across Camden & Islington to ensure they are warm, safe, active and connected over the colder months. The first few calls I’ve made have been positive, with older neighbours not needing any support, but are very grateful to hear from us, knowing they can reach out to us at any time.
However, this isn’t the same with my next few calls. Some older neighbours have various areas of their lives that they need a little support with, such as connecting them with mental health services or helping to escalate housing issues.
I carried out my first call in another language this afternoon to older Neighbour Mauricio, 85, with the thanks to a brilliant translator. We spent 50 mins on our 3-way call - I’ve always wanted the superpower of being able to understand and speak every language - I guess this could be as close as I can get?! Although it was hard to directly build rapport, I felt encouraged to know that language barriers will no longer get in the way of the Outreach team when calling & supporting older neighbours!
Next up on my call list was an older neighbour James 71, who like a number of us is fed up with the lockdown. James informed me he didn’t have a laptop and wanted to feel more connected to his family, especially his sister who lives in Australia. I’ve previously made referrals to community partner Mer-IT, who are helping bridge the gap across the digital divide by offering donated laptops. So, I quickly filled out a referral form for James so that he can hopefully receive a donated laptop in the coming weeks and get to say G’day to his sister down under!
It’s time for a quick check in with older neighbour Gay, 92, who was referred to NLC back in October by Age UK for our Phone-In Clubs as she’d been missing social activity and human interaction. Gay is registered blind and staying at home at the moment. I check in with Gay each week as I just love chatting with her! She never fails to make me smile and is always so positive. Gay told me she loves to dance to Pharrell Williams song ‘Happy’ as it makes her happy! Gay is now a bit of a regular at our phone in clubs and has attended 14 phone clubs since October.
"I really enjoy the clubs. I always come away feeling happier than when I went in. It’s strange but I always have the feeling I have been out the house somehow and have met some nice new friends. It takes your mind off yourself but always gets us talking about ourselves in an outgoing way.”
I’m just about done for the day, now is the usual time to try and wind down - wondering what tomorrow will bring and what kind of conversations I’m going to have with older neighbours in our community. I check out and natter with my teammate Tilly. Hopefully it won’t be too much longer until we can be in the office together along with the rest of the team, with a cup of tea and chocolate biccy, looking forward to that cheeky after work drink.
Last on my agenda for the day is the Cares Virtual Family Disco. What better way to spend my Thursday evening with both older & younger neighbours coming together, grooving away to a variety of tunes! Tonight’s disco featured ‘Tom Jones, Sex Bomb,’ it made my evening! It’s a truly special club - I can’t wait for a boogie at the next one!
Posted by Sinead Wilkinson on Tuesday 9th February 2021
Sinead is the Outreach Officer at North London Cares.