3rd November 2020
Children and young people from the Woodhouse, Kells and Mirehouse estates in Whitehaven have been helping to reduce loneliness in older people by getting involved in community events thanks to £5,000 from the #iwill Fund.
The project, in partnership with Howgill Family Centre and The Centre for Citizenship and Community at University of Central Lancashire, linked young people called Youth Connectors with Age UK West Cumbria’s Community Connectors, who help older people engage with their community. The young people organised events and activities to reduce social isolation of older people, while learning new skills themselves. The events enabled two generations to come together and have fun while supporting each other. Carers who attended the events reported that they felt supported and less isolated having had the opportunity to connect with other carers.
The events included a family orientated community bake off, followed by a visit to a nursing home, and a dementia friendly cafe. All Youth Connectors were also trained as Dementia Friends by the Alzheimer’s Society, raising their awareness of issues associated with dementia. These events also provided the opportunity to signpost and connect with other services.
Brenda Holden, Chair of Howgill Family Centre, said: “The project worked with children and young people whose ages ranged from 10 to 14 year old. Having worked with young teenagers in social action previously, we anticipated that this project would be most impactful on this age group. However, the younger children shone within the project. They had huge amounts of both energy and empathy to give to their work, and this taught us not to underestimate younger children’s potential in social action projects.
“The largest impact on the children and young people was the opportunity to get together with their peers with a shared purpose and help older people in their community. Although facilitated in a small geographic area, most of the children did not previously know one another, and new and meaningful friendships were formed. Most memorably was a girl who had recently moved to the area exclaiming “I have friends now”. Having a shared vision of helping people also helped to connect the children behind a common purpose and created a culture of kindness within the group.”
The project also provided opportunities for full families like *Sarah who is an unemployed mother of three children. After struggling to make friends at school, Sarah’s eldest child joined the group and enjoyed it that much that her younger sister and disabled brother joined along with Sarah who volunteered to help. The opportunity provided the family with a social network, a place to learn new skills and work experience for Sarah.
The positive connection made during these events, especially between the nursing home and St Peter’s Community Hall, means there is a strong desire to pursue more community connectivity event.
*name has been changed
The National Lottery Community Fund and the Department of Culture, Media & Sport are each investing £25 million seed funding to create the #iwill Fund. UK Community Foundations is acting as a match funder and awarding grants on behalf of the #iwill Fund.