Toddler Kiki and brother Jago bring smiles to Wimbledon Guild
Like most toddlers, Kiki Conway-Hughes enjoyed being the centre of attention on her second birthday.
But the toddler was not surrounded by other children at a rowdy party, she was delighted to be tucking into cake with a group of pensioners.
Kiki is Wimbledon Guild’s youngest volunteer and spends Friday afternoons, along with her three-year-old brother Jago, at the Guild House.
Mum Lisa explained: “Mainly they just play and the older people play with them. The do hand out biscuits and tea, but mostly it’s playing.
“Kiki got some dolls for her birthday and all the old ladies were playing with her and the dolls. Jago brought his Lego and he was doing a lot of building with everyone there. It meant that the conversation flowed easily.
“The Guild volunteers don’t do anything hard. We come along chat and do the teas and coffees. We play games. It’s your time and attention as much as anything.
“The children look forward to going. They get lots of attention here. They know the people as well as family – it’s the same ones who come every Friday.”
Lisa, a chartered financial planner, started to volunteer when, at home on maternity leave after Jago’s birth, feeling a little bored she decided to look for something to do.
“I couldn’t be volunteering in a charity shop or something like that because I had Jago with me. This felt like the best of both worlds. It’s a safe environment to take the children and do a short stint a couple of hours.
“Everybody looks forward to seeing Kiki and Jago. Some of them are actually quite lonely. In their everyday lives. They don’t get to see children or mix with them. And it’s good for the children to meet people in their 80s and 90s.”
As well as making new friends and finding an excellent reason to get out of the house with her new baby, Lisa finds that the conversation flows freely.
“It’s really interesting. Especially when they’re talking to children about their childhoods. They couldn’t be more different. A lot of them come from huge families and had been young during the war.
“Talking about what the children are doing will stimulate conversation about what their children were doing at this age, about their childhoods.”
The relationship between the children and the elderly people has built up naturally over time. On the rare occasions when the usual sibling squabbles break out between Jago and Kiki, the Activity Lounge visitors know the pair so well they help calm them down.
“Volunteering might not cross other parents’ minds,” said Lisa. “But it benefits everyone. The Guild helps people with loneliness - it gets people out of the house and it makes it easy for you to get out of the house.
“A lot of the people who come are very lonely and they won’t see anyone between visits to the Guild. Having children there brings a more natural kind of conversation – a more positive conversation. It won’t be about how miserable the weather is – it’s really quite fun.”
Nick Linney, volunteer coordinator at Wimbledon Guild, said: “Many people choose to volunteer because they want to make a difference in people’s lives. They want to make a positive impact in their communities, and volunteering is a great way to be able to connect to other people.
“When you choose to volunteer, not only are you helping someone else, but the volunteer gets a lot out of it too. It can be anything from gaining confidence, learning new skills, meeting new people and generally having fun.
“I think it is important for volunteers to have opportunities to learn and improve skills. Volunteering can help with future career prospects, and boost confidence, in ways they might not have thought of and even discover hidden talents.
“I always encourage people thinking about volunteering to come in and have a chat. More often than not, we are able to find a suitable role. We are always looking for volunteers, so if people are interested, please get in touch.”
June 5, 2017