Charity tackling loneliness celebrates 10th birthday
Isolation busters connecting young and old reaches milestone
Friday, 13th August
North London Cares celebrates
A CHARITY which has connected almost 10,000 older and younger neigh- bours is celebrating its 10th birthday.
North London Cares, which is a volunteer-led charity, helps isolated old- er people. It marked the milestone on Saturday with a party at Hilldrop Community Centre with cake, balloons and dancing.
Founder Alex Smith had the idea for the organisa- tion while door-knocking for votes as a local council election candidate. He met his 84-year-old neighbour, Fred, who had not been out of his house for three months, and a friendship was born.
Mr Smith said he is proud his “tiny idea” based on one relationship created a ripple effect and inspired so many more intergenerational connections.
“At the beginning, I thought it would be me and 10 of my mates hanging out with local older people but it’s become a national organisation of the Cares Family. It’s been an amazing experience.”
The charity shares its birthday with the anniversary of the London riots in 2011.
Mr Smith said: “We couldn’t do anything about the long-standing, underlying injustices that led to the riots. But what we could do is offer something positive and optimistic. Something that said, this place belongs to all of us, and we care about that and about each other.”
“I didn’t want the notion of community that I felt Camden and Islington had given me over the previous 30 years to disappear.”
The charity hosts thousands of activities across Camden and Islington including dance parties, “desert island discs”, box- ing nights and film clubs.
Another initiative, Love Your Neighbour, promotes one-to-one intergenera- tional friendships through walks and phone calls.
Mr Smith said the pandemic has made feelings of isolation and invisibility worse, saying: “It’s hard for people to go back out again, people lose practice interacting with other people. And so we can slowly withdraw more and more into our own little bubbles. That perpetuates some of those bigger societal problems such as discrimination, distrust, and ultimately causes issues for democracy and communi- ties.”
But he also believes community engagement is key. “Isolation is a gateway into all sorts of other societal ills: abuse, addiction, discrimination, racism, homelessness,” he said. “You can name almost any problem in society and say that if there is a strong community around someone, they have a better chance of getting help.”
The Cares Family charity has now connected 23,000 people Founder nationally.