The voices of the people we work are at the heart of what we do – shaping and guiding our strategy and projects. As we work with hundreds of people every week, we thought it important to share some individual examples:
John has been supporting KLS for more than 50 years. He first came to the Settlement as a trainee Barrister in 1960. He spent two years volunteering here as he says as ‘poor man’s lawyer’, providing support to local residents with legal troubles. John went on to have a successful career as a barrister for 30 years and then a circuit judge for another 10 before retiring aged 72.
Since his time with us John has kindly continued his support by making a small annual donation. I wrote to thank him on December last year and this is how he replied:
“Thank you for the Annual Review, as always full of interesting news and projects. This year is the Settlement’s 90th anniversary, and it happens to be 50 years since I started donating a modest annual sum to KLS. I became interested in KLS when I was a very young barrister and had the time and interest to assist with the Poor Man’s Lawyer sessions; Jack Davies (KLS’ Warden for 25 years) was running the show. I am now 80. I think the time has come to end my annual contribution. I see that KLS is in good financial health and in receipt of substantial grants, which is as it should be.”
I invited John to visit and he came along today. We had a wonderful time walking through the building and introducing him to various people and projects in the Centre today – ESOL classes + crèche, Railway Children nursery, EACH counselling, and finally Paul and Diane, two solicitors from SW London Law Centre, who continue the work that John did 50 years ago.
I’m honoured and humbled that someone would support our work for 50 years. I’m also pleased that we as a charity have been able to not just survive that long but positively thrive to support the communities of Battersea. And… we will continue to do so for many years to come. If you would like to make a donation and/or volunteer then do get in touch.
“In the summer holiday we went to Hindleap Warren (it’s like a forest) for 3 days. I was really fun and exciting. We did lots of activities; high ropes, swimming, canoeing, night walk and an assault course. The reason I enjoyed it was because I learned new skills and tried new things and I faced my fears because I was with my friends as well.
The things I learned are doing and trying new activities, being independent as a young woman, also I am now confident going away from home. The most difficult thing for me was going on something high and going on something dirty. If I went back I would do every activity even if it’s challenging and there is nothing I would improve. Going to Hindleap Warren has really improved my confidence.”
Dee is an older lady living in Battersea who attends the weekly dance class here run by the Royal Academy of Dance. Today she said she didn’t feel much like coming, but that the class is worth the effort even if you feel that way. They are currently learning Salsa, Flamenco and types of modern formation. “I love Flamenco. I have always wanted to learn it. It’s very dramatic.” I asked Dee if she was any good and she replied, “No!”. “The dance is also good for the memory,” says Dee. “You’ve got to remember the formation steps… it’s a great test for the mind.”
The class, predominantly female, has given Dee a set of new friends. “The ladies are really nice. We sometimes go out for a coffee or something to eat afterwards. They’re all different types of people, but they’re my sort of people.” Dee told me that her friends are encouraging of other activities – such as the gym. “I’ve been with the gym about eight months now. One of the ladies here introduced me.”
Hannah is the woman that teaches the class each week. Dee said of her, “She’s a good teacher… very patient; you know, we’re not the sharpest tools in the box at our age.”
Rim is eight years old and attends our Love to Learn’s Wednesday Club at Katherine Low Settlement each week. After she completed her homework, Rim was happy to sit and talk to me with her mother, Hana.
“What do you think of the Wednesday Club, Rim? Why do you think you like working here?” I asked. “It’s quiet” she said. The laughter of her mother and I was swallowed up by the shrill noise of the kids all around. “And I like playing games.” I asked Rim if she could describe Love to Learn with one word: “Extraordinary”.
Her mother Hana, originally from Eritrea, told me how Wednesday Club benefits her as a parent. “It’s hard for me to help her with her homework because my English is limited. She teaches me things. The club has helped me learn and I can help Rim better with her homework. I am very happy with the Wednesday Club. Rim can tell me what she has learned. She is becoming very expressive now, too.”
“Rim, would you like to say anything else?” asked her mother. “No.” said Rim and with that she’s off playing with her friends.
Marianna is a Hungarian-born volunteer at our Love to Learn education project with an extensive background in childcare. She originally came looking to volunteer to get some experience in a British childcare environment, but ended up staying because she loved it so much.
Of her time with Love to Learn’s Wednesday Club, Marianna said, “At first it was very useful for me because it helped me adapt my English better. I helped them with their homework but I was learning with them too. I’ve been here for two years now and I love it. I’ve watched the children grow for two years and it’s been amazing. The other volunteers are great too – we have a good team dynamic. And then you make friends and go to the pub and socialise… there’s lots of benefits to volunteering.”
She also spoke of the mix of cultures in Britain – and the club itself. She said, “It is interesting because you meet so many different characters and it is a lot of fun… I am also thankful to staff here because they are very helpful for people like me – the volunteers – for example, what we might do in the future outside of volunteering.”
Brian is a lunch club goer who suffers with Dementia. Today was his 79th birthday. As usual, lunch was served and went down well. Then the birthday cake came out, creamy and spongy – with an image of Brian himself iced on top! The concept seemed to be a new one for Brian as he tried to peel off his portrait saying, “you can’t eat a picture!”
Everyone sang happy birthday and Brian made a wish. Later, I asked Brian how he has found his experience of the KLS Older People’s lunch club. “There is a spirit in here, a liveliness,” said Brian. “I love interacting with the community.”
When asked how he found the company in the lunch club, Brian said, “There’s no class system in here… we are all balanced. I also like that everyone is straightforward and realistic. When you’ve got a condition like mine, you know it’s not going to get any better. These people say, ‘you’re not getting any better, but we will deal with it.”
We love that Brian feels welcome and well catered for food-wise and emotionally here at Katherine Low. It’s important that pensioners like Brian have a place to go where they feel acknowledged and cared for.