What we're up to and things we love!
On Friday 7th September, I went to Silk Court Care Home in Bethnal Green to run a Spots of Time session along with two other volunteers, Heather and Katherine. Not only was this my first Spots of Time session, it was also the first time I'd run a session in a care home or with people living with dementia. I was a little nervous but mainly excited as I was presenting an activity that had been shown to me when I was on a drawing course a few years ago - it had really helped free me up when I felt stuck and uninspired and I hoped it might engage even those who claim they're not artistic. The idea was to introduce mark-making as an alternative form of painting: rather than using the traditional paintbrush, you use a range of objects - straws, toothbrushes, string, bubble wrap, anything really - to apply paint to paper and create a series of marks, splats, shapes and patterns. I usually find it to be a fun and messy activity that allows one to be extremely expressive.
I had told myself to go in with no expectations or 'aims' of any sort but just to take each moment as it came and see what happened. This fared me well as I felt more relaxed and was able to enjoy being in the session, getting stuck in with painting and creating, and just responding to people as individuals. Before the session began we had to move the room around and bring in a table for the painting. This confused some of the residents a little as they weren't quite sure why such changes were happening. Once we'd explained, some came and sat with us enthusiastically but one or two residents didn't really want to engage with the activity. In other circumstances, this may have flustered me as I would worry that I was leaving people out. However, in this case I felt it was important to just let people be and prioritise their comfort. Reading the Spots of Time Volunteer Guide prior to the session really helped with this as it reassured me that what's important in these situations is simply to be there to offer support and take an interest in someone and their life.
I loved seeing the benefits of this on Friday, combined with the therapeutic qualities that a creative session - especially one as free as mark-making - can have. In fact, once the activity had begun, the residents became more and more involved and even those who were initially hesitant joined in and found their own style. By the end of the session we had entirely covered the workspace with the residents' artworks; a beautiful array of colours, shapes and patterns. My highlight of the morning? Seeing one of the residents become completely engaged in an activity he usually dismisses as childish, and seeing the pride on his face having completed many brilliant pieces. I felt very lucky to be able to have this insight into these people's lives and to spend some time with them. I am most grateful to Silk Court and look forward to doing it again soon.
See all the photos from the mark-marking session on the Spots of Time Facebook page.
Ione Maria Rojas @ionemariarojas
If you haven’t volunteered at a care home or day centre before - or even volunteered at all - then choosing our 'cup of tea' activity is a great place to start. New volunteers Lydia, Sharon and Vicki who all work together at the NSPCC offices in Shoreditch volunteered for the first time at the Sundial Centre in Bethnal Green a few weeks ago. We caught up with them to ask how they found the experience.
“I guess like everyone I had my preconceptions about how ‘old people’s homes’ are and in fact, it wasn’t like that at all! The staff are so friendly and really care about and get on so well with all the people there," Lydia explains, "and it certainly wasn’t depressing, bleak or anything like that – it was fun, everyone was really lively and friendly.”
If like Lydia you have any nerves about heading in to volunteer with older people for the first time make sure you take a look at the online guide book we have created for you. It is full of information on what to expect, as well as tips and suggestions including on how best to start conversations with members and residents.
We asked Vicki to describe what it was like. "All the members and staff are really friendly at the Sundial Centre. I’ve been a couple of times now and have enjoyed it each time. When I arrive, I sit and have a chat with everyone and find out a bit about them, then we do a mental stimulation session which is a chance to get involved and ask everyone questions from a work book. There are some great characters in the group and they have me laughing most of the time! I join in with the exercise session too which is good fun helping to keep them going!"
Lydia explains how lunchtime volunteering worked for her. "My manager was really understanding and wanted to help me out so I was able to go. I now take a long lunch every two weeks, and work a bit later that day. It doesn’t have an impact on my work or on my team, and yet makes a huge difference to those at the Sundial Centre." Vicki was also able to make a regular commitment. "It was pretty easy, I volunteer fortnightly for an hour during my lunch break and the centre is only fifteen minutes away so I make the extra time up at the end of the day which my line manager agreed to."
If you want to set up a volunteering group at your workplace then download the information sheet on our Employee Volunteering Programme to share with your boss or executive team.
Volunteering can be surprisingly full of laughs and fun. At Sundial the mood is always very relaxed. Lydia told us, "I couldn’t stop laughing or smiling the entire time! It was the best lunch break I’ve ever had." Sharon would recommend lunchbreak volunteering to colleagues and friends "because its nice to get out of the office and have a break I find it great for times that you are stressed in the office to just get a away for a bit, its refreshing”.
Are you a new volunteer and want to start with something simple and fun?
Sign up to take a break with the older people at Sundial or a care home near you: cup of tea and a chat
Join us in celebrating the Olympics in Essex Care Homes throughout July and August. We have a range of treats organised, from creating and handing out gold medals, to games and enjoying garden parties.
We are collaborating with 5 care homes in Essex and would love to invite you to share a couple of hours and celebrate the olympics with the residents and staff.
We will be making and rewarding medals to relatives, residents and staff for the great work they do, and generally spread some feelgoodness. What better way to celebrate the olympic spirit than by spending time with those who have lived long lives and hve many stories to tell.
Simply sign up below, and make a fabulous difference in your community.
Come and celebrate the Olympics, and the olympians in our care homes.
“Music washes away from the soul the dust of everyday life.” Bernard Auerbach
We agree! And that's why we're going to be taking ipods and live music into care homes as part of The Good Week.
We're adapting our Make a Mix Tape activity so use your lunchour differently and come share some of your favourite songs. All you have to do is pick a couple of tracks - maybe one you think may remind older people of their days on the dancefloor or provide soothing enjoyment for those with dementia.
Or if you have a secret talent we'd love you to come and perform something live - whether you're a band, choir, duo or just you - a perfect way of doing a dress rehearsal or just sharing what you'd normally practice at home.
Join us by signing up below and we'll send you more details. Or if you can't make the date you can sign up to your own 'spot' anytime on our get involved page. You'll also be part of the fantastic Good Week with events happening across the globe and National Sharing Day!
So the nailpaint has probably just about worn off by now but hopefully the memories haven’t. Around 75 people joined us for an afternoon out visiting 7 care homes across East London.
The best thing… the wonderful moments that so many people shared with older residents in the homes we visited. Its hard to do these justice so here are some of our favourite photos of the day to tell the story.
'Thank you so much for inviting me to volunteer, I had a brilliant time. It was so rewarding to spend time with the elderly and it gave me a break from my own concerns and worries and put a healthy perspective on everything. So thank you!, Andre Penteado, photographer
'I've never volunteered before and run a very busy company so locating a few hours was perfect for me. I also tend to spend time with people my age and found it both challenging yet very awarding to spend some time in care homes. It made me think about my own old age and how I really want to live my life' Jeremy Arnold, Entrepreneur.
It was a really special day and a fantastic way to launch our new work in care homes with My Home Life who are the experts in supporting homes in their mission to make quality of life for older residents really good.
So what next? Well we want to encourage more people to do Spots of Time in care homes. One thing that became clear over the day was that not everyone realised that you can book spots at any time.
We were really amazed and happy by how keen people were for us to hold another group day, so we are now inviting you to our next event is Music Club on the 20th June, as part of A Good Week, we'd love to se you all again.
And whilst the moments are what matters most we can also boast that the Big Pamper was largest mass volunteering event in UK care homes – yes really!
Love having your nails done? An expert at hand massage? Us too!
Come join us for The Big Pamper a Spots of Time day out on Saturday the 5th May where with your help we'll be putting on an extravaganza of nail painting and beauty in care homes. Help us make it an extra fabulous day for people who live there and have an inspiring experience.
We're looking for photographers, nail painters, hand massagers, singers, guitar players, card game addicts, chatterboxes and any other skills you may have to brighten up someones day for a treat. To sign up a few hours of your time just go click here.
So why are we doing it? Well chances are you probably didn’t know that around 650,000 people live in care homes. Too often they're hidden corners of our communities but we want to help change that. We’re working with My Home Life to launch an exciting new initiative ‘Home is Where the Heart is’ to help care homes connect with Londoners who can share their skills, interests & time. And from next month we'll also be expanding into Essex too.
And if you can't make the day don't worry! We have lots of other 'spots' that you can book into to do from doing a pop-up dress rehearsal to taking your pets to visit. You can sign up on our Get Involved page or just get in touch at email@example.com and we'll help set you up.
So this post it devoted to how a few of our volunteers and one other inspirational people have proved that small can be mighty when it comes to making a difference.
Here’s Toby Bakare on making a mixtape for Sundial Day Centre…
Despite the fact that I knew I would be going to a day care centre for the elderly, playing them a series of unfamiliar songs to which would hopefully entertain and inform them, my main concern before I stepped in to the Sundial Day Centre wasn’t how would they react to the music but how would I react; did I, for example, really love Noah and the Whale enough to put them on the mixtape?
I started off by playing a song called Microlite by a band called Trophy Wife and within minutes the penny dropped. The music was just the start, their reaction was actually of far more interest because wasn’t playing music for a homogenous group of people but a group of eccentric and individual characters.
There were those who were hostile and the start and took a bit of time to be one over, there were those who were perhaps a little too keen – enthusiastically hugging and kissing me at every opportunity (upon being given a bearhug by one lady I was described as “shy but willing”). Then there those who clearly had musical bones in their bodies and were loving the various drum beats. I rattled through my collection (a series of summer tunes) to a mixed and varied reaction. But everyone engaged which was nice and a little unexpected to be honest. This by consensus was their favourite and, funnily enough, mine too.
I know that since Toby has gone in the mixtape (well ok mix CD) he left behind has been played numerous times, kind of an unofficial soundtrack for the summer. Its funny as often its hard to know what difference you make because the impact can keep on going, like a seed that’s planted. A great example is the spot of time that Helen Williams did with Headway East helping them to set up their blog
Just a small amount of time from Helen has planted a seed that has continued to grow, the group regularly update the blog and feel really proud of it. I think for one think it looks awesome.
I think often the resistance to small moments is that its hard to prove their impact. In one of my earliest discussions with someone about sending talented creative people into schools to run mini sessions on design, art, music they questioned whether it ought not to be a six month scheme to deliver clear outcomes. Wouldn’t the children feel let down if they never saw the person again? Well as I said at the time, I don’t think so. As human beings we understand that not everyone we meet is our lasting friend, we can all be inspired from just one small chance meeting although it may be hard to evaluate that! But certainly when we go to a gig or to a performance we don’t expect to form a bond with the people involved even though it might be something we remember for the rest of our lives.
Anyway, it’s a hard thing to do justice to so I’m going to end with a story that really got me. A wonderful lady called Lauren Currie who runs Snook in Scotland happened to tell me how she spoke to 2nd year students in Dundee last year. She did just one lecture, talking to them about her experiences since graduating and believing in yourself. From just one lecture over 30 students blogged without any prompting about the impact Lauren had had on them – one of the best ways to see what a difference a small moment can make is to have a read of the posts here.