Adelaide's volunteering experience

We love having visitors and volunteers come join us at our sessions, their help really means a lot to us and the older people and children we work with. And we find having a big mix of people of all different ages always works well - the more the merrier!

Adelaide Waldrop, one of our volunteers, talks about her experience so far and what she’s looking forward to in the year ahead.

Hello! My name is Adelaide and I’ve been volunteering with InCommon since spring 2018. This came from an interest to learn more about their work and to gain a wider perspective on different communities in London. While my area of expertise is firmly rooted in the theatre, I’ve worked in creative facilitation with people of all ages before – I was curious to see how my experiences might fit in with InCommon’s work.

As a theatre director and actor, my work centres around the power of communal storytelling. This is no different than what Laura and Charlotte have built with InCommon. By creating a space for older residents in retirement homes to share their life experiences with local primary school students, InCommon fosters a strong sense of communal connection in the room. I could see the immediate and powerful impact of that connection from my very first session – sparking new relationships between participants that continue to develop with each following session.

It’s thrilling to see a new friendship forged between an eight year old (who’s never lived in an iPhone-less world) and an older resident (who lived through the Blitz). While on the surface they could seem to have more differences than not, the programme facilitates discussion in a way where it doesn’t take long for new bonds to take hold – over a shared love of dogs, playing conkers, or a game of tiddlywinks. It’s so special to be a part of that process.

I have a few favourite moments from my time as a volunteer so far, though it’s hard to choose just one. Most recently, it was probably watching the older residents of Sherwood House share the cards that the children had made for their last session together. For these residents – some of whom don’t have grandchildren, and many of whom don’t see their grandchildren as often as they’d like – these new connections with young people in their neighbourhood invigorate their discussions and expand their world views. They were laughing and reminiscing about their times with the children, and musing about what the next year group would be like. The communal lounge was abuzz with energy, like it always is after an InCommon session.

A favourite moment of mine from many sessions last year year is watching the children come back to one of the sheltered accommodations for a second or third session. Immediately they start waving and chatting, all looking for their resident buddy from the last session. You can see how the room lights up as residents recognise the children and are delighted to be remembered. The air is always thick with excitement.

In the new year, I’m looking forward to more sessions! We’ve built some strong relationships with residents at these housing schemes, which makes working with InCommon a real pleasure for me because I get to return to catch up with old friends. I’m also looking forward to seeing how InCommon will develop further in the coming year. I hope the programme continues to reach more communities in London (and beyond) and I hope to continue to be a part of it!

By Adelaide Waldrop

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