Over the past month, we have slowly and safely been transitioning back to face-to-face programmes, and this includes the return of face to face visits within Love Your Neighbour, our one-to-one friendship matching programme. We have loved hearing stories from old friends reuniting and new friends meeting for the first time.
Here are a few of our favourite stories
Chorlton neighbours Ernie (87) and Lorna (33) were introduced back in spring 2019. From weekly brews, to attending social clubs together the pals usually pack a lot into their visits. After over a year of calling each other they finally got to meet up (except the odd doorstep visit- including a Trifle drop off for Ernie’s birthday). They decided to take a stroll around a local park and their huge smiles tell me they were both equally excited to see each other.
Pals Anne (70) and Trish (30) first met at a Manchester Cares' Social Club in early 2020. Anne said that after the quiz, "we stood outside the pub for ages, we seemed to just click". So when the pandemic hit we asked them if they would be interested in keeping in touch over the phone and they couldn’t have said ‘yes’ quick enough. Fast forward to one year later and the pals had a long-awaited visit to Hip Hop Chip Shop. Here they swapped film and music recommendations and walked the Angel Meadows art trail, where Anne's photos, which Trish described as "lovely" are on show (we highly recommend a visit if you’re passing by!).
Sarah (89) and Anthony (36), hit it off from their very first visit back at the start of 2020. The pair, who both love literature and share Irish backgrounds, always have a good natter and laugh; “Sarah’s really interesting and she’s funny as well. She cracks me up!”. They really missed each other throughout the pandemic, “It’s been terrible not being able to see Anthony over lockdown, phone calls just aren’t quite the same!”. So as soon as they could they returned to their weekly brews “Anthony is wonderful, he’s marvellous!”. As you can see they have started right where they left off - exchanging book recommendations and sharing stories and poetry they have written.
It isn’t just younger and older neighbours who had met before who are meeting up. Through Phone a Friend we introduced over 30 new younger and older neighbours to share calls and company over lockdown, many of whom are still chatting now. Just like Lufti (69) and Helen (38), who have shared over 150 calls and have just celebrated one year of friendship, and to celebrate they met in person for the first time! “It was really unbelievable to meet, we’ve been talking on WhatsApp for a year but face to face is different. It was really really good meeting Helen, it really cheered me up we had such a lovely time chatting away! I am looking forward to seeing her again soon!”
We recognise that many people -both young and old- don’t quite feel ready to meet face to face yet and that is ok too. It is really important that everyone is able to go at a pace they feel comfortable and confident with.
From Phone A Friend to Love Your Neighbour
Now it’s safe to meet up again, we have transitioned back from Phone a Friend, reopening Love Your Neighbour. Phone a Friend was our emergency response one to one programme and some amazing friendships have been made through calls. We have learned that for some people, calls can be just as important as seeing people face to face. So we have taken this learning and adapted our programme, and for that reason our Love Your Neighbour programme can now be either calls, visits, or both.
Keeping our community safe
The safety of our network is our -and everyones- number one priority, so we have communicated safety guidelines with all our network and are providing PPE to those who are unable to access it themselves. We are not asking for people to be vaccinated to partake in any of our programmes. Right now it is not a legal requirement and we believe it is important to respect everyone's individual views. We are supporting those who wish to be vaccinated by sharing information to help people make informed decisions.
Get involved, referrals are open
During the pandemic demand for Love Your Neighbour grew very quickly so we had to close referrals. We have recently welcomed Izzy to the team so now our referrals are now open again and we are making new matches. If you know anyone who is over 65 who might enjoy a weekly brew please share this- we always love to meet new people! If you’re a younger neighbour and you’d love to meet a few friend, then sign up to volunteer here.
Posted by Vicky Harrold on Friday 2nd July 2021
Vicky is Manchester Cares' Programme Coordinator managing our Love Your Neighbour programme.