For some, the night before is about getting blind drunk, over indulging, and 'celebrating' a little too much. For others its a quiet night in and just another day in the morning. For others however its another day of loneliness, and isolation.
Being anyone who falls into the category of vulnerable in this day and age is not easy, especially in the hustle and bustle of a city. Over looked, forgotten, and brushed aside by a society which has become too busy and self involved to take a moment to lend a hand.
So this New Years Day, a large group of volunteers in the SE23 area got together to assist a wonderful man Tommo, who has been organising a lunch and fun afternoon for such groups over Xmas and NY for over a decade now. Following a post for help on the local SE23.com forum by Alice, a whole host of people jumped on board to help out with the last of the 3 days. Some however had helped the whole time, so hats off to those people.
A minibus would collect groups of people from the surrounding area, and the interactions with one another would begin. I ran the minibus with my nephew Calum, who for a young shy lad did a great job knocking on doors, and helping people to and from the bus. A great exercise for overcoming the shyness he suffers from. As each new character joined the bus, the mood changed up a gear, excitement, general conversation, and some wonderful interactions.
On arriving back at the hall after the first trip, the volunteers had done an amazing job starting to set the place up, and by the end of the last trip, the place was transformed in both image and energy. (as you can see)
By the early afternoon the logistics planning of getting everyone home again, but without making them feel rushed or left out was underway. Talking to people about what time they wanted to leave, while they were trying to concentrate on a game of bingo was not the easiest task. However, along with many other tasks, like phoning ahead to let people know we were on our way to pick them up, Daryl, my niece, took to it like a duck to water, and got the job done.
By the end of the day, after a few misunderstandings, a few unplanned diversions, and a whole lot of fun, all the guests were safely dropped back home, the minibus returned to Sidcup, the keys back to Swanley, and the final curtain fell.
This morning, we got the rest of the clearing up done, all the cooking equipment, food, and decorations back to their home, and the hall was like new again.
So I want to sum up by saying this:
Thank you to everyone who volunteered time, goods, or just a little effort to the whole event. I only did the one day, and have huge respect for those who did all three. I only found out about all this at the last moment, and seeing the way Forest Hill and its people pulled together to help on the day was quite touching. So if you are local, or were drafted in, like helicopter crazy Ali :) Thank you all for answering the call.
The call, which came from Alice, who took on a huge task so soon after having her first beautiful little baby. Awww. Looking after a newborn is quite a task in itself, but to have managed to coordinate all this too was really quite amazing. So thank you Alice for bringing us all together, putting us all in touch, and especially for the hospitality and patience having myself and Rob (CellarDoor) over to start getting sorted.
A special thank you to Calum and Daryl, who for my end of the job played a HUGE role in the day, and made things work as clockwork as they possibly could. It was a great experience for you both, as well as a heck of a long day, so well done, you both did a brilliant job, and I really could not have done it without you.
Events like this not only make you realise how fortunate you are, but also how important you are, and what a difference a small gesture or bit of time can make to someone else's life.
So here's to the next time we are all able to do something as amazing as this, I hope opportunity comes knocking soon. Tommo, you are a great guy for making things like this happen :)