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.
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.