The Good Neighbours Scheme provides a space for Islington residents to connect with each other – improving each other’s mental health and wellbeing.
It’s a grey and rainy morning in the middle of winter, but *Olanna decides to leave the house to head to the Jean Stokes Community Centre on the Bemerton Estate.
She’s looking forward to seeing her neighbours, who have become her friends over the years.
We meet her at the entrance. Today’s the day before Christmas break and the residents have organised a small gathering (for a change, without Emma, the Help on your Doorstep coordinator on the Estate). “We [sometimes] organise these ourselves, we come in, discuss something and drink coffee, you know, it’s a friendly atmosphere”, explains Olanna.
She arrived in Islington 30 years ago and some of her family members are still in Nigeria. Since she started coming to the Good Neighbours Scheme in 2017, she’s been feeling much happier and less lonely, as she points out: “It gives you joy to come here, I was sitting [home], feeling sad, [thinking] I have to do this and that; [and then] once you’re out here you forget about problems, makes you happy”.
We worked with Help on Your Doorstep to establish the Good Neighbours Scheme (GNS), a service to break isolation by creating space and opportunity for neighbours to come together, share experiences and build long-term relationships.
Olanna enjoys the Coffee Mornings every Monday morning, where neighbours come together to chat and play games while drinking coffee or tea. But she also likes the Adults Arts and Crafts sessions on Tuesdays, “and sometimes [I come in] Wednesdays for the film [screening]!”, she adds.
When asked what her favourite activity is, she says “everything! [when you come] it’s just like family”.
Help on Your Doorstep staff members and volunteers (like Nicky and Martin) make Olanna and other vulnerable residents feel like home.
“When you come you see the people that are your friends, you chat with them, you forget your pain”, says Olanna.
*Fictional name, the resident prefers to be kept anonymous.