Emily Clarke answers questions on North London Cares and South London Cares, both of which are charities supported by Octopus Giving.
What’s your mission?
North London Cares and South London Cares are sister charities and community networks of young professionals and older neighbours, hanging out and helping one another in our rapidly changing city. Our objectives are to:
- Reduce isolation and loneliness among older people and young professionals alike;
- Improve the connection, confidence, skills, resilience and power of all participants so neighbours can feel part of our changing city rather than left behind by it;
- Bring people together to reduce the gaps across social, generational, digital, cultural and attitudinal divides.
We do this because London is a place of extremes. While our capital is one of the most dynamic places in the world, full of cultural and economic opportunities and a hotbed of innovation and change, it can also be anonymous, lonely and isolating. Many older people have deep roots – from Brixton to Bermondsey, Kilburn to Kentish Town – but few connections. What’s more, the rush and pace of the modern city can often feel too much. Meanwhile, young professionals – often graduates from across the country and around the world – can have hundreds of connections in the social media age, but no roots in their communities. We address this by harnessing the people and places around us for the benefit of all.
What type of activities do you do?
We have four core programmes to help us achieve our mission:
- Social Clubs: they take place during the day, on evenings and at weekends, and can include events such as beer and board games, Men’s Cooking, salsa lessons, arts and crafts and ‘back to work’ business visits.
- Love Your Neighbour programme: a one-to-one friendship between an older and younger neighbour. Time is often spent at the home of the older neighbour, helping to bring the outside world in for people who struggle to get out.
- Proactive outreach: we visit pharmacies, GP surgeries, supermarkets, libraries and post offices and strike up conversations with the older people there.
- Fundraising: teams of older and younger neighbours come together to raise money to help ensure our activities remain free for all involved.
Has Octopus Giving made a difference to what you do?
Octopus started supporting The Cares Family at a moment of transformation. Through their donation and support, we’ve more than doubled the number of older and younger neighbours in The Cares Family network. We’ve created new Social Clubs, new roles to help streamline our work, and deepened our Outreach effort to help ensure we can tell the most isolated older people about The Cares Family.
What’s more, their passion and belief inspired us to grow outside of London. Manchester Cares opened autumn 2017, with another ‘Cares’ to follow in 2018. It’s because of the backing of Octopus – and being able to recognise that support to other funders – that we can do even more to tackle social isolation across our rapidly changing city.
What are you working on right now?
Right now, we are laying the foundations for Manchester Cares. It’ll be interesting to see how our model works outside of London. In London, we remain focused on tackling isolation and loneliness in our patch – Camden, Islington, Southwark and Lambeth – and we’re always looking for new ways to welcome more older and younger neighbours into our community network to enjoy shared time and company.
What things do you worry about?
One of our challenges is reaching the most isolated older neighbours in our city. Two-fifths of older people say TV is their main form of company. Creating social connections can improve health and wellbeing, so that’s why we proactively knock on doors, or speak to GPs, or strike up conversations in pharmacies to ensure that our amazing older neighbours – full of stories, personality and tales – know that they are valued in our city.
What one thing would get you closer to achieving your mission?
Probably people just looking out for each other. Simple things like saying “hello” to your neighbours, or striking up a conversation with an older person on the bus, or speaking to someone in the supermarket queue would help with the resurgence of neighbourliness that we strive for. It’s amazing what a simple ‘hello’ can do to help someone feel valued, vibrant and visible.
What makes you positive about the future?
That whilst there are big trends like globalisation, gentrification, migration, digitisation and the housing bubble are transforming our communities faster than ever before, there are still people and organisations trying to ensure we remain connected, who inspire a sense of neighbourliness, and who remind us that it’s people that matter.
What are you most proud of?
We’re most proud of our community network – of their energy, humour, personality. Of the stories that are shared – tales of mischief and misadventure – and of their real desire to bring back a sense of place and purpose to our ever-changing neighbourhoods. None of it would be possible without the time, support and passion of our older and younger neighbours.
How can people get involved?
There are plenty of ways to get involved. You can hang out with neighbours like Frances, Geoff and Harry at a Social Club, enjoy a Love Your Neighbour friendship, or walk, run, cycle, bake or swim for The Cares Family. The best thing to do is to fill out the following forms, for North London Cares and South London Cares. You’ll then be invited to an induction, where you’ll hear all about how start your journey with North London Cares and South London Cares. We can’t wait to meet you!