Woodland Grove launches Homes of Hope project in partnership with Unique Community and Brent Youth Theatre

Woodland Grove Care Home in Loughton has teamed up with Unique Community and Brent Youth Theatre to take part in a letter writing project, Homes of Hope. The project aims to keep residents stimulated and connected with the outside world during the Coronavirus pandemic.

Furthermore, it will give young people an opportunity to build relationships with residents and learn more about their experiences.

Homes of Hope

The Homes of Hope project will see residents and young people exchange letters on a weekly basis and is instant and accessible to everyone, as letters will be sent digitally. This method will also eliminate any potential risk of infection control given the current COVID-19 situation.

Eventually, the goal of the project is for Brent Youth Theatre to visit Woodland Grove and meet the residents.

Lifestyles Manager at Woodland Grove, Elise Woolnough, has already met the young people who are taking part in the project: “We had our first Zoom meeting last week and it was a huge success!”

During the meeting Elise gave a brief overview of Woodland Grove and information regarding the residents and what life is like for them in the care home.

Finally, they drafted a letter as a group that focused on asking the residents a list of introductory questions and the name ‘Homes of Hope’ was born. It was based on the theme of the first letter, “What is your favourite place in your home?”

Letter for residents from Brent Youth Theatre

“I have taken the first letter and circulated it around the home. Myself and the Lifestyles team have been spending time with residents who wish to take part in the project. They will write a response which I will share with the young people on our next Zoom call” said Elise.

Unique Community & Brent Youth Theatre

Unique community devise community arts projects that are inclusive, accessible and developed in partnership with local people. Executive Director, Natalia Nikolaeva set up the charity in response to her own personal experience as an asylum seeker from Russia. Similarly, new arrivals come to the charity to get practical advice whilst feeling like they are becoming part of the local community.

The charity has developed in recent years to focus on delivering inclusive community projects across Wembley. Thus, the inception of Brent Youth Theatre.

Brent Youth Theatre helps bring young people of all abilities together. Their mission is to inspire creativity and develop a sense of connection in the community. They want to empower young people to live confidently.

Need of the hour

A lot of arts organisations have turned to digital platforms in order to stay connected throughout these unprecedented times.

“When we first went into lockdown in the home, Nataliya contacted me. She asked if I would be interested in hosting this project with her. She had a group of 15 young people that were interested, and of course I said yes and ‘here we are!’

“The project ‘Homes of Hope’ has come at an extremely important time in history. I believe that much good is happening within social care. Communities should challenge the stereotypes of the elderly being portrayed in the wider media. It’s important to combat loneliness and ensure that we all have a helping hand and listening ear to lean on.”

“I’m so excited not only to work in collaboration with such a fantastic organisation and group of young people but to leave our residents feeling valued and inspired. This project could be the start of unlikely bonds and friendships between communities and individuals.”

Brent Youth Theatre Artistic Director, Nataliya Kharina said, “Right now, more than ever, we need to feel a sense of community in the world. I’m really excited to see how we can use modern technology to break down barriers.

“It’s exciting because the care home residents and young people are not only different in age but also live on opposite ends of London. This is a connection that wouldn’t have happened otherwise, there is something quite magical about that.”

Forming Pen Pal relationships

Residents from the care home will be paired with one young person each. Communication will take place on a weekly basis and a pen pal relationship will follow.

“So far, residents have expressed gratitude in being given the opportunity to tell someone about their lives. The idea of building relationships with these young people with the eventual goal of meeting has excited our residents and filled some with hope and joy.”

Stay tuned

The project is underway and so far, the response from the residents has been positive. “I should love the opportunity to tell someone all about my life” and “it will be great to get into it all”, said some of the residents.

Every week Elise and Nataliya will be meeting with the young people on Zoom to share the residents’ responses. They will also be helping them brainstorm themes and ideas for upcoming letter writing sessions.

Our Woodland Grove Care Home Facebook page will have regular updates for residents’ families and relatives to keep up-to-date. There is also a possibility that the residents may respond to the young people through video messages in the future.

Both Elise and Nataliya see Homes of Hope as a long-term project. Elise said, “Of course, this is all subject to interest but it all seems extremely positive at this stage.”

Find out more about Woodland Grove Care Home.