A couple of years ago I joined Manchester Cares as a volunteer, and through the Love Your Neighbour project, was matched with my wonderful older neighbour Audrey, 70. Over the last 2 years, we’ve developed a unique friendship; sharing lots of laughter, conversations about our families and filled our time wholesomely, often painting each other’s nails (her favourite colour burgundy was on-trend) or baking a delicious carrot cake together (the recipe is definitely Bake Off worthy)!
I often left Audrey’s house feeling happier and fulfilled, knowing that we had both shared a lovely evening together. I knew instantly from my time volunteering with Manchester Cares that I wanted to be a part of the special work that The Cares Family does to help people find connection and sense of community.
At the start of 2020, I decided I fancied a change from Manchester and wanted to try life in the ‘Big Smoke’. Making the big move from Manchester to London in January made me feel quite apprehensive, as even my most sociable friends who lived here had said to me what a lonely city it can be at times. Just as I was beginning to find my feet, the pandemic hit, increasing isolation amongst everyone, making the need for a sense of community even stronger but, in turn, more difficult. With lockdown and restrictions in full force, I couldn’t help but think of how Audrey and other older neighbours that were completely isolated were going to cope, especially with the digital divide. Human connections felt more important now than ever.
So when I saw there was an opportunity to join the Cares Family as an Outreach Officer, I was so excited – finally the chance to contribute to making a positive impact within my local community. Starting a new job in the midst of a pandemic has been strange to say the least! Even though I’ve mainly met colleagues virtually rather than face to face, everyone has been so welcoming. It’s inspiring to be working with such passionate and dedicated people who are really making a difference.
One month in and I’m really loving my Outreach Officer role! I’m learning so much every day and I’ve had some great chit-chats with so many wonderful older neighbours, hearing their interesting and humorous stories, like older neighbour Gay, who at 94 asks her ‘Alexa’ to play marching music so that she can march up and down her corridor to keep fit! It’s great to be able to refer them on to our virtual social clubs or phone a friend programme to help them feel connected.
We’re also working with some amazing community partners like Wish and Shine, who are ensuring older neighbours’ houses are warm and comfortable, especially over the winter months as the nights draw in.
With Outreach’s Winter Wellbeing project in full swing and a second lockdown in place, I can’t wait to continue to support older neighbours in Camden and Islington and become more integrated into this amazing, supportive community.
It’s safe to say my move to London was worth it in the end, to feel at home in a community with The Cares family helping others – this role has also helped me to find my feet.
And of course, I’m so grateful for video calls for allowing me and Audrey to still be able to hang out whilst being in different cities!
Posted by Sinead Wilkinson on Thursday 19th November 2020
Sinead is the Outreach Officer at North London Cares.