One thing I really enjoy, as publisher of Keep The Faith magazine, is highlighting some of the great projects run by individuals within our community.
This project has really struck a chord with me, as my father is from the Caribbean and has early onset dementia, a problem affecting so many of our senior citizens, and one that may well affect any of us at some point… I was taken aback by the amazing work of this project, its achievements, and the passion and commitment of its founder, Pamela FranklIn.
The Caribbean Social Forum is based in Woolwich, London, and is a not-for-profit organisation, set up in 2015 by children of parents who came to the UK from the Caribbean and neighbouring countries. It has grown to over 400 members, all over the age of 50, who meet up once a week on Thursdays from 12.00pm to 3.00pm, with the aim of meeting new friends, for companionship, enjoying a light meal together, games, conversation, and to listen to professional speakers who can offer support and advice and enjoy a sociable afternoon.
According to Pamela, there are fewer than 10,000 Caribbean people in the borough of Greenwich; the majority of Black people are from West Africa and, whenever they have African Caribbean events, quite often the Caribbeans are outnumbered and subsequently their needs are not being met. She explained that the aim of the Forum is to “involve us – the ‘now’ – together with the ‘yet-to-be’, ‘about to become’ and elder Caribbean community, in shaping futures that will more accurately reflect the lives we lead.
“The talks about ‘back home’ weren’t met; the need for traditional food wasn’t met; the need for games they play wasn’t 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.”
She continued, “Communication is our key in leading healthier lives, reducing dementia, so having a place like the Caribbean Social Forum will help to combat isolation and allow people to bring back ‘a taste of the Caribbean’ with educational talks, dancing, music, singing, news and discussion groups, writing and much more.”
The challenge now for the Caribbean Social Forum is that they have more people than space! They need larger premises that can allow them to expand what they offer, which is far more than what we see on the surface: they offer counselling, home visits and even organise trips and holidays in the UK for its members. They have taken parties of 50 people to holiday for a week in Devon and Derbyshire, and also organise trips to places like the Royal Opera House, Autograph Museum and even tea at The Savoy!
When asked why she started the Caribbean Social Forum, Pamela replied: “There is no ‘I’ in ‘we’. As a group of people we come together. Sometimes life circumstances change. My life changed when I fell ill and I thought, if I am like this, there must be many others like me in the world. And the people who are lonely in the Caribbean community, where my family is originally from, just need somebody. So I went out to look for those in need. It’s to help other people, as well as to help myself.”
She added, “At the Caribbean Social Forum, we haven’t forgotten the contribution that our elderly Caribbean have made throughout the years, and our goal is to make the end years more exciting than the former years.”
Pamela Franklin is a trailblazer! The Forum is self-funded, and Pamela believes that there is enough money and resources within our own communities to do something positive for ourselves, which she clearly has and, of course, she puts her trust in God!
If you are in the area on a Thursday, why not pop in? The Caribbean Forum is held at 51-53 Woolwich New Road, SE18 6ES.