Summer Events: Intergenerational Volunteering

Nigel Mentee Experiences, Summer Events

Pineapple ClubDespite the greyness of the sky and the cold winds threatening rain to follow, I was determined to remain positive that today’s session would be a success. By 10.30am, four of our male Mentees – Simeon Harris (13), Kaream Lawrence (16), Gregory Eyebi-Kadock (16), Abraham Asaye (16) and one female – Paris Thomas-Robinson (16) took the short bus journey to the Anerley Community Centre to meet the last male Mentee – Elliott Henry (16). Vivienne Smith, one of Urban Synergy’s regular adult Mentors, who has committed herself to supporting many of this year’s summer activities including todays, also met us wearing our signature black and white US t-shirt.

By 11.30am, the group had been introduced to Mrs Malcolm and Fred – organisers of ‘The Pineapple Club’ and taken on tour around the centre to be shown where they can and cannot etc. One of US two veterans, Elliott, had already been given his first task: to get the trolley ready with tea, coffee and biscuit to serve the range of members that would soon be arriving. Simeon offered to assist him so wearing the familiar white hair net on their heads, the two worked swiftly up and down each row ensuring members had their ‘usual’ and returning back to the kitchen staff to refill. Whilst they busied themselves with that for most of morning, Mrs Malcolm set the rest to helping the driver of the minibus – Ezekiel – support the less physically able members from the bus to their seats. With big grins spread across their faces and the occasional ‘tank you darling’ I knew they appreciated the gentle arm or soft request for help offered by our Mentees. When questioned as to why they volunteered to work with the older generation, I was told ‘I don’t often see my grandma in Nigeria so I like to do this’ – a harsh reminder that many others may have similar stories to share.

By early afternoon, our Mentees had: watered and fed members with light refreshments; chatted briefly with some of the regulars and another visiting youth group from Bromley (Police Cadets); watched a game of dominoes to learn the ‘psychodynamics’ of life; wrapped utensils in paper napkins and made a couple of jugs of diluted juice to then help serve a traditional West Indian meal of fish or pork with rice n peas, roast potatoes and salad! Because I’d failed to put in my order when I’d first arrived and smelt the strong familiar aroma of freshly-cooked food, I was to satisfy myself with a plate of food without meat or fish. One of the two cooks scolded me by saying, ‘You should’ve put in your order!’. I replied that I would make sure i’d remember next time. Meanwhile, our Mentees had gathered around one of the tables and were quietly tucking into theirs. In what appeared to be only a moments later, they’d cleaned off their plates and were washing down the food with juice! Satisfied none had requested to go off site in search of the usual request of chicken n chips, I left them to relax playing pool.

Whilst I and several other older folk, chilled out or sneaked in a quiet nap after eating a hearty meal, the men at the front the hall or on the stage debated amongst themselves or continued to slam dominoes on the wooden whilst many of the women tended to knit, finish crosswords or collect in the last of the money for BINGO. Simeon was hand-picked by one of the men to take on the challenging task of calling out the numbers. Following a five minute preparation/training exercise, Simeon began. Refusing to be put off by the occasional interruptions of, ‘Shout man!’, ‘Me can’t hear him?!’, ‘Take your time, man!’ from different voices from around the room, Simeon continued. Whilst several winners collected their reward Simeon was congratulated for his effort in staying calm and responding positively to the criticism – Well Done Simeon!

As usual, the grand finale was for the members to hear from US so after briefly talking about who we are and why we were there, I invited Gregory and Paris to the microphone to speak on behalf of the six Mentees. Both explained who they were, why they were there and what they learnt with little show of fear or embarrassment. Vivienne also spoke much to her surprise summing up how grateful we were to spend the day with them. Our day of volunteering ended with plenty of encouraging words from members of the club affirming US for the voluntary work we’d done today and individual hugs from Mrs Malcolm. Watch this space for our second visit to The Pineapple Club next week!

Enjoyed the most:
Kaream – Interesting with (working) with people of different ages
Gregory – playing word search with the elderly

One thought you will take away:
Ibrahim – have more experience of talking to the elderly

On Thursday 25th August, we had the last activity for the summer programme – Intergenerational Volunteering, part two. What originally started out with four young people expected to attend today, ended in one lone soldier: Tion Bartley (14) who ‘…despite the bad weather’ was undeterred by it, said of volunteering with the elderly that it was ‘…good’.

‘I served tea and lunch and took photographs while they danced’, says Tion. Though simply put, as an observer it appeared quite different. Tion prepared the table by laying table cloths and crosswords; made tea and coffee with biscuits; served dinner at lunchtime and took pictures during the ladies ‘reggae aerobics’ session whilst being safely behind the lens of the camera.

The Pineapple Club had its first ‘reggae aerobics’ session with Urban Synergy’s adult volunteer, Vivienne Smith. Their usual aerobics trainer was unable to attend so Vivienne stepped in on her behalf and volunteered to deliver the session and so she did! With the addition of one of the speaker box’s from the main hall, extended to provide the women with music for their session, there really was no stopping Vivienne then. She had them stretching, lifting, bending and ‘wine’ing to the music in the name of physical exercise. Comments like: ‘It was fun!’ and ‘It was different but I really enjoyed it’ filled the air – even Mrs Malcolm, Pineapple Club Co-ordinator, participated in the gyrating hips exercise, expressed how ‘Wonderful!’ it was. Today certainly was one for coming out of your comfort zone and doing something out of the norm – well done, Tion and Vivienne!