March students visit residents at Springfield care home after training to become YOPEY befrienders
PUBLISHED: 15:19 05 December 2019 | UPDATED: 16:23 10 December 2019
A second group of teenagers from a Fenland school have been trained to be ‘YOPEY Befrienders’ and make friends with elderly people living in a March care home.
The 16-17 year-olds from Neale-Wade Academy were recruited by the East Anglian charity YOPEY and trained by YOPEY founder Tony Gearing MBE at the secondary school.
In the same week they paid their first visit to Springfield, the care home in The Causeway whose residents will be meeting the young people weekly for a year.
At the end of their training the 13 sixth-formers were made 'YOPEY Befrienders' by Mr Gearing, who was made an MBE by the Queen in 2017 "for services to young people in the UK".
He said: "Having served young people, I now want to help young people to serve the elderly and possibly create the best intergenerational scheme in the country."
"The partnership between Neale-Wade Academy and Springfield is in its early days, but I hope the path between the school and the care home will become well trodden."
The aim is that the young people will visit the care home residents for an hour a week for up to a year.
They are replacing a group of 14-15 year-olds who have 'retired' to focus on their GCSE exams.
YOPEY, which is based in Newmarket, is short for Young People of the Year. Tony, a former national newspaper journalist, has previously run Young People of the Year campaigns in Cambridgeshire and other counties.
The charity now focuses on YOPEY dementia befriending and is running a dozen schemes across the country but most are in the East of England which Tony wants to make a 'beacon for befriending'.
To the new volunteers from Neale-Wade, Tony said: "It can be quite daunting at first to make conversation with someone with dementia.
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"But following the training and with further support from YOPEY and the care home staff, I hope you will fill the gaps in the hearts of lonely residents."
The young volunteers write reports about their visits on the web app www.yopeybefriender.org where the public can see leaderboards of the top YOPEY Befrienders in the country.
Susie Meek, 16, said of the training: "Tony went through how dementia can affect everyone different so we should expect different things.
"He explained how to act with the resident and how to make conversation which helped me a lot as I will now know what to do and say.
"He was very helpful and made everything more clear."
Harvey Brown, also 16, helped make a cake and met a 96-year-old World War II veteran on his first visit to Springfield.
He said: "Douglas spoke about the war and about his wife but explained that she isn't in heaven because there is no such thing as god.
"He said that we live on a dying world and he is leaving at the right time before it can get any worse. However, he enjoys himself a lot and is very bright spirited."
Dr Carole Spibey, head of sixth form at Neale Wade Academy, said: "We are delighted that several of our year 12 students have taken the opportunity to be part of this fantastic scheme to be able to share their compassion and enthusiasm with people with dementia in their local community.
"At a time when older people are susceptible to loneliness and isolation it is inspiring to see that our students want to play a part in improving the daily life of people with dementia.
"We are very proud of their efforts. We hope that this partnership between Neale-Wade Academy and the Yopey Befrienders Scheme will continue to grow."
Carole Wood, manager of Springfield, said: "The new YOPEY befrienders have already started to visit and are striking up friendships with our residents. I have high hopes that both generations will get a great deal from this scheme."
The first YOPEY dementia befriender scheme in Fenland is funded by grants from The Evelyn Trust and Wisbech crop production specialists Hutchinsons.