Holborn Community Association’s Befriending Scheme matches isolated older people with volunteers, who offer weekly visits, friendship and an all-important link to the wider community and the outside world.
As an example of its work, the scheme has continued the pairing of volunteer Alan with long-time Millman Street Community Centre member Connie, who have been friends since 2016, when they met via the Camden Connectors scheme.
Connie is 97 and attended events at Millman Street Centre for years until ill health restricted her mobility. Later, she was part of HCA’s Good Neighbours scheme. Sadly, after that project ended, Connie experienced several lonely years until being paired with Alan.
Alan visits Connie twice weekly, and keeps her updated on news in her local community. The pair also share a love of the card game cribbage. “Before Alan’s visits I was very depressed,” Connie said. “It has been my salvation,” she added of the Befriending Scheme.
This year, the Befriending Scheme was involved with Bloomsbury Festival’s Festival In A Box project. The project matches artists with older people from local befriending schemes like HCA’s. The unnamed Festival In A Box jazz band also performed at Millman Street Centre for our members recently.
Connie’s background was in dance and movement, and, via Festival In A Box, she was matched with Sarah, a choreographer. Together, they created a seated dance, inspired by the elements air and water. The element Water was inspired by the fountains of Granada, where Connie lived as a young woman.
“This was an opportunity to take part in an activity I thought I would never be able to do again,” said Connie.
Holborn Community Association’s Befriending Scheme is run by Kate Blackshaw. “It has made all the difference in the world to me,” Connie said. “I give it 100%,” she added. You can’t get any better than that, both as a statement of mathematical fact and a ringing endorsement of the Befriending Scheme.
“I appreciate my visits to Connie as much as she does,” Alan said, adding: “She’s an incredible person.”
Festival In A Box project Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Photos and interviews by Kate; report by Notes Smudger