CRC students recognised for YOPEY work - Cambridge Regional College
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CRC students recognised for YOPEY work

Two Cambridge Regional College (CRC) students became television stars when they appeared on ITV Anglia News last week (Wednesday 3rd July) – all for their amazing volunteering with care home residents in Huntingdon.

Roanne at table with residents
Roanne at table with residents

Roanne, 17, and Katie, 23, Health and Social Care students from CRC’s Huntingdon campus, joined the team at Primrose Hill Care Home, part of the Abbey Healthcare group. Their volunteering has seen them giving 200 hours of their time to entertaining the residents, bringing sparks of joy to their lives, whilst developing their own personal skills – skills that they will carry forward into the world of work.

They were inspired to befriend residents by Tony Gearing MBE of the East Anglian charity YOPEY, which stands for Young People of the Year. YOPEY recruits, trains and supports young people to become ‘YOPEY Befrienders’, befriending lonely elderly people living in care homes, especially those with dementia diseases such as Alzheimer’s.

Roanne and Katie being filmed walking down corridor
Roanne and Katie being filmed walking down corridor

The pair’s confidence has skyrocketed whilst working in the care home – something noted by Home Manager Amanda Favell. She said: “As a care home, we are always reaching out to bridge the gap between our care home and the community to ensure the residents continue to feel a part of the community. When we were contact by Tony, we really wanted to support [the YOPEY initiative].

“The YOPEY Befrienders have had a massive impact on our residents. They enjoy spending time completing activities, chatting and getting to know the befrienders. They have chatted about many subjects and have asked on several occasions when the befrienders are coming in (next).

Katie visiting resident in her room
Katie visiting resident in her room

“It has been amazing to see both Roanne and Katie grow. Roanne came in a very quiet young lady and now she is very confident, leads activities, and is greeted by residents as soon as she comes in.

“It’s been a pleasure to have had the experience of inspiring the befrienders, who could be our future carers and nurses.”   

The duo has been visiting the care home under a YOPEY Dementia Befriender partnership between CRC Huntington, Primrose Hill and another Abbey Healthcare home in Huntingdon, Cromwell House.

Young People of the Year was set up by Tony Gearing, a former national newspaper journalist, in 2004 to correct the negative images of young people in the media in the early noughties.

From 2005 to 2017 Tony held over 80 Young People of the Year contests from London to Scotland, with one every year in Cambridgeshire from 2005 to 2017. YOPEY became a registered charity in 2012. The first YOPEY Befriender partnerships were trialled in 2013 and are now the main thing done by YOPEY, bridging the generational gap.

Tony Gearing looking on as Katie and residents laugh
Tony Gearing looking on as Katie and residents laugh

Not even the pandemic stopped YOPEY Befrienders supporting locked-down care home residents, with the young people writing letters, and making activities, artworks and videos for the elderly people to enjoy and stay connected with the outside world. YOPEY distributed these materials to over 2,000 care homes UK-wide.

Tony said: “We are now back to running face-to-face befriending partnerships between care homes and sixth-forms or colleges, although we do still send out occasional packs of letters.

“Roanne and Katie are great YOPEY Befrienders. We ask our young volunteers to visit for an hour a week. Roanne and Katie enjoy their volunteering so much, they often stay all day at Primrose Hill.

“Through YOPEY, they have built up impressive Records of Volunteering Achievement that they can download from their yopeybefriender.org profile and show to future employers.”

Roanne interviewed by ITV
Roanne interviewed by ITV

Donna Grant, Professional Practice Assessor at CRC, added: “Both the students have been totally dedicated to supporting the charity YOPEY along with the other students who have been visiting residents at a different care home.

“The experience has boosted their confidence, their communication and listening skills as well as forming friendships with the residents. Their understanding of dementia has grown as well as their ability to deal with certain situations.

“We look forward to carry on working with the charity over the next academic year.”

For more information about YOPEY visit yopey.org and yopeybefriender.org

Photographs by Paul Sanwell of op-photography.co.uk

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