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Old and young combat loneliness together in Walsall

By Harriet Evans | Walsall | Education | Published:

Residents and schoolchildren in Walsall have come together to help combat loneliness among older people.

Reading to volunteer Dot Price are pupils Light Moses, seven, Malik McKerdy, seven, and Bernice Johnson, eight

Elderly residents living in Burrowes Street have volunteered their time once a week to visit pupils at Croft Academy Primary School.

In good weather, the volunteers and children garden together in the school's onsite allotment, and during the colder months the volunteers listen to the children read and help them improve.

The project was started by the team at WATMOS Burrowes Street Tennant Management Organisation.

Carole Pichart, tenancy services coordinator, said: "I've done a lot of work with the school in the past, the headmistress told me they were struggling for volunteers to come in and hear the children read, and I thought it was a great opportunity to ask the residents who live in the estate nearby.

"The senior citizens who come in were all professionals, we even have one lady who was a nurse, but they tend to feel isolated in their homes now.

"As a social housing organisation we go the extra mile for our residents to try and sustain tenancies and ensure they don't feel cut off, a lot of the time they just need someone to speak to and give them a sense of worth.

"Over time we're seeing their confidence and morale build up again and the interaction between the children and seniors really is great for both of them."

The programme began in October and has been so successful that there are plans to continue it for as long as possible, with the school offering to pay for all of the volunteer's DBS checks.

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Carole added: "The headmistress at the school, Miss Gemma Down, actually said they can't see an end to the project because the children love it."

The children who take part in the project are selected by their teachers to give them one to one support with learning to read.

Youngsters are planning to give back to the volunteers by visiting them and performing a concert of Christmas carols in December.

Harriet Evans

By Harriet Evans
Community Reporter - @HarrietEvans_ES

Community Reporter at the Express & Star, covering the issues affecting young people across the Black Country and Staffordshire. Contact me at harriet.evans@expressandstar.co.uk

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