The Caribbean social forum, a charity set up in January 2015 for the over 50s has grown to a staggering 300 members. According to some members, it is a solution to the borough’s loneliness problem among the most vulnerable people who need companionship. Whether you are black or white, the Woolwich Caribbean Forum is a perfect platform to alleviate loneliness and isolation.
Afro London News’s Wallah Adams visited the club on Thursday February 25 and this is what some club members had to say:
Mr Irvine Best who recently moved from the Caribbean Island and was at his first visit said:” I come here to find out about human behaviour of the Caribbean people living in England. I freshly came from the Caribbean and precisely from Barbados. And back home I work in the tour industry, so I came to find out information that will allow me to connect to people in the travel business.
Ms Dunkley who joined the forum a year ago said: “I have been coming here since the place was opened on January 29, 2015. Everybody is friendly here. Instead of staying indoors we come here and socialise. It is a very happy place, like one family. We can relate to each other and we are just happy here. Anyone qualifies to come here. Once you come in, you can’t get out. Because everybody is so happy. And everybody is so good. We are locked in”. ”No turning back. We are happy people, Ms Blosson completed.
For George of St Lukes Church in Charlton who is a reader of Afro London News, the forum is about tracing the roots. “The people who meet here are the people of same roots, people from the same background. The club is an ‘extension of home’, he added”.
Ms Daphne: “It is a great place to be. I have been coming here since the club was set up a year ago. It will be nice for a local organisation to support this club since we are all pensioners and when we are going somewhere we hire a coach, say hire a coach for half price. We only pay £3 a week to cover for tea, coffee and what is there as food. But
normally members bring food from each Island.
Maria:” I have been coming to this since. I was looking for a place to socialise, to meet other people. I’ve got no social life. I’ve always wanted to have somewhere to go, to go out and go to different places. My daughters said “find somewhere to go” but I couldn’t find anywhere to go. That’s why I come here because it gets me out of the house… to meet other people, socialise with other people. And they teach you different things, which is what I come here for. I don’t mind because I have a mixed family anyway. My dad originally came from Canada, my sister is married to a Ghanaian, I was married to a Nigerian, and my daughter’s boyfriend is from Jamaica”.
Founder, Pamela Franklin
The club aimed at the Caribbean community, aged 50 and onward. But we do not exclude other people; we have the Indians, the white people. Everyone over the age of fifty is welcomed. But all the atmosphere is based around the Caribbean.
In the Royal borough of Greenwich, there are less than 10,000 Caribbean people out of 285,000 in the borough. The majority of black people here are from West Africa and when they have Afro-Caribbean things, quite often the Caribbeans were outnumbered, which means their needs were not met. The talks about back home was not met, the need for traditional food was not met, the need for games they play was not met. So by bringing the Caribbean people together, they can recreate what they know. They can talk about the food; they can talk about things that are related to them. And there is no language barrier because everyone speaks the same language.
You know what? I don’t think I done it, I see we done it. There is no ‘I’ in ‘we’. As a group of people we come together. The Caribbean social forum is for the 29 countries in the Island.
The challenge we face at the moment is that we have got more people than we have space. So what we will need is premises that can allow us to expand the services we offer. We offer more than what you see here on Thursday. We offer counselling, organise trips, home visit…
We have to trust God. We are self-funded. We are not funded by the government. I believe, within our own people, we have got enough money to do something for ourselves.
Sometimes life circumstances change. My life changed when I fell ill and I thought if I am like this, there may be many others like me in the world. And the people who are lonely in the Caribbean community where my family is originally from, and those who just need somebody. So I went out there to look for those in need. It’s to help other people as it was to help myself.
Councillor Harpinder (Harry) Singh of Woolwich Common ward This is a really good initiative which is self funded – not relying on the Council to get funding. This is actually dealing with isolation issues. It’s bringing together people from different parts of the borough and we have people from as far as Canning Town and Newham come over. So because we have good transport infrastructure people can come together for three hours. You can see the activities, everyone is engaged. People all talking, it is tackling isolation and a form of distraction as well, otherwise they would be at home looking at their four walls. It brings them out and gives them another lease of life. I feel that when people retire, it’s not the end of the world. They have a lot more to give – their wisdom; their knowledge; what they’ve done in the past. They had much tougher times than us and they’ve got great knowledge to pass on. Especially to our youngsters. They never complained, they lived in this country, they were racially abused, attacked, these new community youngsters don’t know what they’ve been through. When we came to this country, there were jobs available but the host community did not want them – like cleaning, working in hospitals, factories, but I feel the Caribbean community are very hard-working, very dedicated, and let’s not forget them when they retire – they’ve got so much to give and it’s only a small price to give.
This is a trailblazer for other communities to look into. There’s so much to be done if you become self sufficient. This is the start of a journey. As a councillor, I am very proud of Pamela and what she’s managed to achieve. This is my ward and I’m very passionate about the people who live in this ward, who come to this ward and borough. As a council we’ll try to help as much as we can, we’ll engage with them and we want our community to stay healthy, warm, and our council is able to provide that sort of advice. We could bring some of our services in here… Do you have any problems in term of your welfare rights?’ We can bring our services to them.
Contact: 0844 357 3700
The Caribbean Social Forum; Caring for the most vulnerable in the Community
Pamela Franklin (right) with Councillor Harry Singh