Awards keep on coming for founders of Calderglen Befriending Project

Mrs Anne Robb with pupils
Mrs Anne Robb with Calderglen High School pupils.

A dedicated member of Claremont Parish Church, East Kilbride, along with her team of young volunteers, has been recognised for her role as the 'lynchpin' in an elderly befriending scheme which has also been praised in both the Scottish and Westminster parliaments.

Mrs Avril Anderson, 74, a community councillor and congregational board member, began the Calderglen Befriending Project over four years ago after noticing a need in the community and forming a partnership with Odette Frazer, depute head teacher of Calderglen High School.

Mrs Anderson, Ms Frazer and the students were presented with certificates recognising the success of their work at the Generations Working Together Recognition Awards ceremony at Strathclyde University. Last year, at the same awards, Mrs Anderson was named Volunteer of the Year.

The Provost of South Lanarkshire Elaine Logan has also presented the group with East Kilbride and District Crime Prevention Panel's Silver Salver Award no less than four times.

Each year new 6th year students from the school are paired with elderly community members, around 80% of them from the Claremont Parish Church congregation. The befrienders call in for one hour each week to help out around the house or just to chat.

After viewing the scheme's success, MSP Linda Fabiani and MP Lisa Cameron have both urged other schools to create similar befriending projects.

Joan Taylor Joan Taylor, 94, the oldest person in the befriending scheme, with two of her young friends from Calderglen High School.

Such good kids

Mrs Anderson is keen to challenge how older generations view young people saying:

'I enjoy seeing young people getting the praise they should as there's so much bad press on today's youth when we have such good kids in our Community who wish to do good'.

Mrs Anne Robb, 76, who has participated in the project and is currently housebound due to ill health says:

"I welcome the fact the befrienders come in and see me. It's lovely to have them come over and the do a few errands. I really just enjoy having a blether with them".

She is keen to stress the importance of the church as a way to bind communities together, saying, "My church has been important to me all my days".

Mrs Anderson added: "It's all thanks to the church that this has taken off. If the old people hadn't accepted it then this wouldn't have taken off."

Cafe Clare

Many students now help out at a food bank every Monday that is partly run by Claremont Parish Church, and at Café Clare, a weekly event which sees high schoolers prepare, serve and clear food. They also sit at each table to talk to the elderly visitors who use the café.

Head teacher Elizabeth White emphasised the benefit to the students saying,

"Our young people are receiving so much out of it. It's getting them to learn the importance of values such as care and respect. At least three or four times students have attended the funerals of people they are partnered with. It shows the lasting impact and legacy of the project".