One activity that is arguably perhaps one of the most challenging for many of Urban Synergy’s mentees is the time spent at the Pineapple Luncheon Club, an African Caribbean project for older people in Anerley, South London.
According to Dianne Johnson, programme manager for Urban Synergy, she says that some mentees find visiting the Club quite a challenge because they have pre-conceived ideas that they won’t have anything in common with people who are old enough to be their grandparents or even great-grandparents.
“It’s perhaps natural that the mentees call into question their ability to communicate with older people and are fairly self-appraising about their ability to find common ground even before they’ve gone to the Club. But with this activity, almost all of them come away having gained new confidence and skills, having made new older friends and having had a really enjoyable time. They certainly benefit a great deal from having had interaction with their elders.”
During the latter part of August, mentees, Rymel 15 and Elliot 12 attended the Pineapple Luncheon Club, for a day of volunteering which also doubled as a valuable life skills training session.
Both youngsters certainly enjoyed the experience of bonding with their ‘seniors’ but when asked what stood out for him about the experience, Rymel remarked that he loved the energy shared by everyone at the club and that the day helped him review how he interacts with those who are significantly older than him.
He says: “I wanted a new experience of meeting people and I think that being able to communicate with authority figures is really important. I thought this activity would help my communication skills and it has. And I actually had a lot of fun doing it.”
Elliott recalls that the day was very enjoyable and that he saw it as an opportunity to give something back to people that he ordinarily wouldn’t really think of. “It was great to meet with some of the older people and I definitely came away with a sense of respect for them. They were all really nice and made us feel so welcome. Taking part in this activity has helped me achieve a particular goal that my mentor has set for me so although I wasn’t too keen at the start, the day turned out great and I’m glad I did it.”