The ‘YOPEY Befrienders’ from Ormiston Sudbury Academy in Sudbury, Suffolk, organised the first night out ‘in a year’ for Mavis, Margaret, Dorothy and Joy, all of whom are in their 80s and use wheelchairs. One has dementia.
YOPEY Befrienders are sixth-formers who are recruited and trained by the charity YOPEY to visit a local care home for an hour a week for a year. YOPEY stands for Young People of the Year.
This group of 10 sixth-formers have been visiting Four Seasons’ care home Catchpole Court in Sudbury for six months.
YOPEY, which is based in Newmarket, Suffolk, gave the sixth-formers £50 to pay for a special wheelchair taxi to take the elderly women and carers to and from Catchpole Court care home to and from the local school.
The teenagers also raised £60 from a bake sale to pay for treats for their guests. The school donated £75 worth of tickets for free.
Dorothy Turpin said: “I can’t remember the last time I went out”. Margaret Annear added: “It’s been at least a year.”
Laying on the trip to the opening night of the musical was the idea of 17-year-old Rebecca Meggs.
“I wanted the residents to see our school musical Aladdin Jr in which several YOPEY Befrienders were taking part. I was a harem girl.”
She led the group of teenagers in organising transport, hosting their guests in a ‘green room’ at the school, laying on tea and treats and meeting the stars of the show before curtain up.
During the show another YOPEY Befriender Sophie Tonkins, 16, sat with their guests.
“I asked how they felt about Rebecca organising this event for them, to which Dorothy replied ‘she’s a lovely girl that Rebecca’. They all said they were ‘very impressed’.”
Carer Sammie Steer, who accompanied the residents along with other Four Seasons staff, said: “Rebecca is an amazing student – she made us all feel like VIPs. Everyone from the YOPEYs to the cast and staff of the academy should be super proud.”
Catchpole activities coordinator Coleen Sagon said YOPEY Befriender is “wonderful. I love the fact that you all come and see the residents – it makes their day.”
Afterwards, Rebecca said: “I felt both relieved and proud at what I achieved. This was very difficult to organise and very time-consuming but I in no way am I regretting my ambitious idea as I know how much the residents and carers enjoyed themselves.”
YOPEY founder Tony Gearing said: “I have been setting up YOPEY Befriender partnerships between schools and care homes up and down the country for four years. This is the first time any group of young people has organised a trip out.
“I will be using Rebecca’s initiative to encourage other groups of YOPEY Befrienders to do the same.”