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'Giving time is of indispensable worth' - befriending scheme for those with dementia

PUBLISHED: 11:00 16 November 2019

A Cornwallis Court resident with a YOPEY befriender Picture: CHRIS FELL

A Cornwallis Court resident with a YOPEY befriender Picture: CHRIS FELL

Chris Fell

A volunteering scheme where young people visit lonely care home residents living with dementia has returned to Bury St Edmunds after a gap of two years.

The founder of the Suffolk charity YOPEY Tony Gearing MBE has trained six sixth-formers from County Upper School, one of Bury's secondary schools, to visit residents at Cornwallis Court in the town Picture: CHRIS FELLThe founder of the Suffolk charity YOPEY Tony Gearing MBE has trained six sixth-formers from County Upper School, one of Bury's secondary schools, to visit residents at Cornwallis Court in the town Picture: CHRIS FELL

The Suffolk charity YOPEY has trained six sixth formers from County Upper School in Bury to visit residents at Cornwallis Court in the town.

Previously through the YOPEY Dementia Befriender scheme, about 50 children from County Upper and St Benedict's Catholic Schoolin Bury made hundreds of visits to St Peter's House in Out Risbygate.

YOPEY founder Tony Gearing MBE said: "We're now back with better training and support, and the young people use a web app to record their visits, which means they have a better record of their volunteering to show prospective universities and employers."

Denise O'Brien, the new manager at Cornwallis Court in Hospital Road, said: "It is important to engage with our local community and the YOPEY Befriender scheme enables young people to understand more about dementia as well as bringing the community into Cornwallis Court.

"We are very grateful for this opportunity to introduce these young adults into the care environment and look forward to a long and productive partnership with YOPEY."

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Paul Fisher, head of sixth form at County Upper, said the initiative had "already opened their eyes to the importance of working closely with others in the community and how taking time out of their busy schedules can benefit them and the lives of others".

Former Bury YOPEY Befriender Mary Whittingdale said: "Giving time and just being with somebody is of indispensable worth; those who work in the homes are incredibly giving and patient people, but they also have a lot of other things they have to do.

"This is why the role of a befriender is so important and why I would urge anyone to give it a go."

Since starting YOPEY Befriender in Bury, Mr Gearing has set up others in Suffolk and across the country.

He said: "I want to make the East of England a 'beacon for befriending' and I want to make Suffolk the brightest beacon of all!"

YOPEY has invited other sixth-formers in Bury, and those of a similar age from West Suffolk College, to express an interest in becoming befrienders by emailing hello@yopey.org

"If enough get in touch they can join the scheme at Cornwallis Court," added Mr Gearing.

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