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Pupils from Newmarket Academy train to become befrienders

A second group of students from Newmarket Academy have trained to visit a care home next to their school as YOPEY Befrienders, volunteering to make friends with the elderly residents, many of whom are living with dementia.

The Suffolk charity, which is based at founder Tony Mr Gearing’s home in Stradishall, trained its first group of befrienders from the school earlier this year.

And some of them have been visiting Kingfisher House care home, and its specialist dementia unit, in St Fabian’s Close, which neighbours the school, ever since.

Newmarket YOPEY (23250140)
Newmarket YOPEY (23250140)

Two of the pupils have appeared in a West Suffolk Council film promoting its community chest grants, which are funding the scheme until next year.

As the older pupils beganpreparing for their GCSE exams next summer, assistant principal Sophie Gynn arranged for Mr Gearing,who was made an MBE for services to young people in the UK in the Queen’s Birthday Honours in June 2017, to recruit and train a new group ofeight to 15 year olds from the school’s Year 10 who are now starting to visit the elderly residents at Kingfisher House.

“We introduced the YOPEY Befriending scheme in May and it has ignited the passion from students, who previously had been shy and quiet, to become more confident and resilient,” said Ms Gynn.

One of the new YOPEY Befrienders, Naomi Baldock, said: “We chatted to a resident about her dogs, family, her school, experiences, home village, love for birds, collectable statues of the queen which she took pride in.

“She was not a dementia patient as far as we were aware but I gained confidence and knowledge as to good conversation topics and how to engage with them as this was completely new for me.”

Mr Gearing added: “I am hopeful we are building something really special in Newmarket and that the YOPEY Dementia Befriender scheme here will help Suffolk become a Beacon for Befriending by young people in the East of England.

“We want the young people to understand how difficult the simple things can become when you are very old. When you add dementia into the mix life really is very hard."

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