Befrienders bring two generations together
IT MAY not seem like an obvious pairing but teenagers and elderly people in the Cotswolds are striking up an unlikely friendship with a new rewarding volunteer scheme.
Sarah Cuthbert, from Duntisbourne Abbots, has been visiting 84-year-old Pat Morris at Watermoor House as part of the Cirencester Young Neighbours (CYN) befriending scheme for five months.
The 17-year-old, who starts her A-Level year at Cirencester College this September, said she first decided to join the scheme because her older brother Tom had recommended it.
"My brother did it and enjoyed it, so I thought I’d try it. I’ve never really had a relationship with the older generation because I’ve only got one grandparent who lives a long way from here, so I found it interesting," Sarah said.
"I was a bit nervous at first because I wasn’t sure what we’d have in common but it’s been really easy. Pat is so enthusiastic. She’s always pleased to see me and tells interesting stories."
Pat, who is almost blind but still plays the organ at St Peter’s Church in Siddington, said: "I very much enjoy my visits. It makes me feel younger and takes me back to my days as a house mistress at Westonbirt School."
CYN, which was launched in 2009 as a joint initiative between Cirencester College and Cirencester Good Neighbours, aims to bring together older people living in care homes with a young volunteer who visits for an hour a week.
Currently the scheme has 16 volunteers but more are needed for the three care homes visited, Watermoor House, Paternoster House and Ashley House, all in Cirencester.
As well as providing some often much-needed company to elderly people, the scheme also has added benefits for the young volunteers who can gain a host of skills to add to their CV as well as a letter of reference from the older person to pass on to universities and future employers.
It was Pat, a former teacher and house mistress at Westonbirt School, who first thought of the idea of writing references for the volunteers that came to visit her.
She said: "It’s harder for younger people these days and it’s good to give something back."
Run under The Churn Project’s umbrella, both the CYN and adult-equivalent Cirencester Good Neighbours befriending schemes are in need of more volunteers. In particular, people who are willing to visit people with dementia are needed for CGN and training is available.
For information on CYN contact Celia Page on 07788 560024 or firstname.lastname@example.org and for CGN contact Ro Lyon on 01285 642566 or email@example.com