Our work at North London Cares would not be possible without the amazing individuals and organisations with whom we partner. This is wonderfully demonstrated in the following story about Joan, a 99 year old neighbour in Islington. It starts with a referral from a community partner, and results in a truly warming display of kindness from individual members of our Facebook community.
Joan was referred to us by the British Red Cross. At 99 years of age Joan was still independent, mobile, and outgoing and the British Red Cross felt she would benefit from greater social interaction. With Joan’s consent, they sent her details to us and Harry, our Love Your Neighbour co-ordinator for Islington, went to visit her.
Love Your Neighbour is a friendship matching programme that introduces an older neighbour to a suitable younger neighbour from the local area. They are then supported to develop a friendship by meeting up on a weekly basis over a cuppa and a chat, or by heading out to explore the wonders of London together.
After a recent fall Joan was in some pain and had lost a bit of confidence, but that didn’t stop her from being incredibly warm, receptive, and with a great sense of humour. Harry knew Joan would make a great Love Your Neighbour match, and was confident he would find a younger neighbour who'd be keen to form a friendship with her.
Whilst Harry was with Joan she mentioned that her living room radiator was not working properly. Joan also pointed out that she often felt cold when she was outside, and did not have a hat or any gloves. For both of these reasons Harry suggested that the Winter Wellbeing team get in touch with her.
The Winter Wellbeing programme reaches out to neighbours of Camden and Islington who are over 65 years of age, and provides various interventions to ensure they are staying warm, healthy, active and connected during the coldest months of the years.
As part of the Winter Wellbeing team I visited Joan. She explained that her radiator had previously been checked, but no one had managed to fix it. I informed the Repairs Team from Islington Council, who partner with us on the project, and in just a couple of days the radiator was back in full working order.
One unique aspect of the Winter Wellbeing programme is the free provision of blankets, clothing, and various other warm items to neighbours struggling to stay warm. Unfortunately these items were all black in colour, and Joan explained that she was allergic to dark coloured clothing dyes.
Leaving Joan without was not an option, so we reached out to the North London Cares Facebook community for help. The predicament was explained and it was asked if anyone would be willing to donate a colourful hat or gloves to Joan.
In true North London Cares style, the response was overwhelming! Emma, Kat, Anita and Isabelle all very generously pledged donations, and within a week the office was awash with beautiful and brightly coloured garments!
The donors were so touched by Joan’s story that they also included notes and cards sending their love and wishing her well. It was a truly touching reply to the request, and one that Joan was amazed by:
‘I want to thank people for being so kind, helpful and thoughtful. I wasn’t feeling very well today and this has really cheered me up! When you get to my age, it becomes difficult to make new friends because it’s harder for me to go anywhere. The fact that someone is out there thinking of me, even for a little while, makes such a difference.’
When a community connects, those within it become inspired and motivated to help one another, often in unexpected ways. And that, as Joan will tell you, is a truly joyous experience.
If you know anyone over the age of 65 living in Camden or Islington who could benefit from our warm items, or any of our programmes, then please call us on 0207 118 3838 (option 3).
Harry has already matched Joan to a younger neighbour, and we are always on the look out for more people to get involved in all of our programmes. If you would like to find out more in Love your Neighbour or our Social Clubs, then please complete this short form on our website.
We look forward to hearing from you!
Posted by Matt Scaysbrook on Friday 22nd February 2019
Matt is an Outreach Officer at North London Cares.