South London Cares has received a £90,000 windfall from the City Bridge Trust to expand its buddying scheme bringing younger people and OAPs together to tackle loneliness.
The grant will help fund the Love Your Neighbour Project, currently operating as a telephone support scheme during the pandemic – to help older, vulnerable people stay connected with their community and make new friends. It is hoped around 2,000 people will take part in the scheme as a result.
Tony Wheeler, 74, and Callum Struthers, 29, from Herne Hill, became friends through the Love Your Neighbour programme in November 2019.
Usually, they meet at the cafe at the end of Tony’s road, get a coffee, and stroll around Brockwell Park.
Throughout lockdown Callum has been creating quizzes for Tony to go through on the phone together – with topics ranging from the TV show The Knowledge to Crystal Palace.
Tony said: “I’ve got a lot to be thankful for after connecting with South London Cares – they’ve helped me out a lot.
“I was in a bit of dire straits when I first linked up with the charity, I’ve sorted myself out now and things are looking up.”
Callum said: “I really enjoy the connection it gives me to the local community. If I’m honest, I was surprised with how quickly the bond between myself and Tony grew.
“It’s amazing as something so simple as going for a walk each week, grabbing a coffee, can give you such an opportunity to really open up, get to know each other and build trust and friendship.
“It doesn’t really feel like volunteering, it’s more like checking in with an old friend, catching up and looking out for each other.”
Alex Smith, founder and CEO of South London Cares, said: “When we first went into lockdown in March last year, a lot of our neighbours said for them the fear of being socially isolated was as great, if not greater, than the fear of actually catching the virus.
“The activities we are providing online, by phone and post-pandemic in person are all aimed at building a sense of community and tackling social isolation and loneliness – and the younger people get just as much benefit from it as their older neighbours.”
The City Bridge Trust funding is also being used for ‘virtual’ social clubs via Zoom and, once COVID restrictions ease, will fund regular themed social get-togethers such as film, pub and craft clubs.
The City of London Corporation’s charity funder, City Bridge Trust, is London’s biggest independent grant giver, making grants of over £25 million a year to tackle disadvantage across London.