Making Tottenham smile

Local youth project bringing positivity amid the pandemic

Jessie Stephens receives flowers from Operation Smiles

By Tobi Mary Aina, Voyage Youth

Elderly people and carers are at risk during this difficult time of a health pandemic, and more than ever they need to feel the support from those in their community.

As young people, we have taken it upon ourselves to ensure that they are appreciated. Operation Smiles is a six-week project that was set up in July as a way for young people to give back to their community, whilst learning vital skills that are required to become young leaders of the future.

We are delivering flowers to people, and collecting photographs of happy recipients smiling. This is our way to bring positivity during this challenging period of lockdown.

Our project focuses on people who might not have necessarily gotten the support they require because they are not being focused on. It is helping them to feel appreciated, as sometimes their work and effort can go unrecognised. A project like this ensures that this does not happen.

Voyage Youth has been in contact with a variety of Haringey-based care facilities, and we have been reaching back to our Caribbean elders who were a part of last year’s ‘Windrush elders: Our Memories Project’ via the African Caribbean Leadership Company (ACLC).

Some of our elders live in Bruce Grove and Noel Park, where we have been delivering to over the weekends. We want to use this opportunity to ensure they are doing okay during this extremely difficult time.

Our young leaders have graduated from the Voyage Youth programme: YLFSC (Young Leaders For Safer Cities), and in addition to working alongside ACLC, we are also collaborating with Arena Flowers, Up Cycle, HIP (Hackney Independent Forum for Parents/ Carers of Children with Disabilities), City and Hackney Carers Centre, and Hackney Caribbean Elderly Organisation, to deliver this project.

The COVID-19 pandemic has affected people within our community in different ways, and this project aims to bring positivity and light during a very dark period. It also, allows young people to feel better connected with their community, helping them to understand the importance of giving back.

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