Charity praises youngest group of befrienders

Millie Eddy is thinking of a career as a speech therapist after seeing how dementia effects speech
Picture Paul Sanwell ANL-161221-161032001
Millie Eddy is thinking of a career as a speech therapist after seeing how dementia effects speech Picture Paul Sanwell ANL-161221-161032001
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Pictures by Paul Sanwell

More than 20 14- and 15-year-olds from County Upper and St Benedicts Schools in Bury St Edmunds, have been taking part in a Young People of the Year (Yopey) Befriender scheme at St Peter’s House in Out Risbygate.

Skills Zach Giles learned on the project enabled him to help his grandmother after a stroke
Picture Paul Sanwell ANL-161221-161043001

Skills Zach Giles learned on the project enabled him to help his grandmother after a stroke Picture Paul Sanwell ANL-161221-161043001

Tony Gearing, the Stradishall-based charity’s founder said: “This was the first YOPEY Befriender scheme to use 14- to 15-year-olds. Some people warned me recruiting such young people was a mistake – they were ‘not grown-up enough’. But they have proved the doubters wrong and been very grown-up.”

St Peter’s posed an extra challenge to the teenagers as all its 50-plus residents have dementia. So the Yopey Befrienders were trained to relate to people living with Alzheimer’s and other forms of the diseases that progressively rob people of their memories and ability to do things for themselves.

That has given the youngsters useful skills. Zach Giles said: “My grandmother had a stroke this spring and lost her communication. I used the skills I learned as a Yopey Befriender to help her learn to communicate again.”

It has also helped with career choices for some.

Tilly Watts helps with a craft activity
Pictures Paul Sanwell ANL-161221-160954001

Tilly Watts helps with a craft activity Pictures Paul Sanwell ANL-161221-160954001

The Yopey Berfrienders with the charity's founder Tony Gearing
Picture Paul Sanwell ANL-161221-161018001

The Yopey Berfrienders with the charity's founder Tony Gearing Picture Paul Sanwell ANL-161221-161018001

Ewan Ley has applied to become a care industry apprentice
Picture Paul Sanwell ANL-161221-161006001

Ewan Ley has applied to become a care industry apprentice Picture Paul Sanwell ANL-161221-161006001