Oldalone UK – No one should endure loneliness, let alone older people

This month we are profiling Luisa Sofía Brands, CEO of Oldalone UK, a vital charity that believes that nobody should endure loneliness, let alone older people. Oldalone UK promotes more inclusive communities by helping adults from under-represented communities, overcome social isolation and loneliness.

1. What does your charity do?
Oldalone UK was founded in 2015 by Luisa Sofía Brands (CEO). We promote more inclusive communities by helping adults from under-represented (BAME) communities, overcome social isolation and loneliness. This is through community minorities-based projects and activities, such as Digital Inclusion, art projects, companionship and befriending.  Theatre, guitar or dance lessons, community hub days, afternoon teas and parties, and food distribution across seven London boroughs are just a few of the activities we provide.

As a BAME-led charity working for BAME people, we have a track record on supporting vulnerable people from the Latin-American and other communities.  Since 2018, we have been operating in Haringey, closely working with Homes for Haringey’s Support and Wellbeing service to develop support and social groups for those from the BAME communities. As a charity providing lifeline support to our beneficiaries due to Covid-19, we have seen an increasing demand for our services.

2. What are the challenges and how have you been affected by the pandemic?
Since the beginning of the pandemic when everything came to a halt affecting our companionship services, leisure activities and ICT lessons, we had to extend the scope of our services to provide extra emotional support and reassurance to our clients through telephone calls, videoconferences, and first-hand assistance to ensure they did not run out of food, medicine and essential services.
Many of our activities needed to be adapted to an online provision. We provided several food distribution campaigns across London, which offer food security and regular essential supplies to vulnerable people affected by the pandemic.

3. How does your organisation help users overcome these challenges?
The pandemic affected older people and individuals from BAME communities in an unprecedented manner, prompting us to source other innovative initiatives required to help our beneficiaries overcome these challenges and reduce social isolation. While looking for capacity building opportunities, we found that ELBA was working with their business supporters to find creative, ingenious and impactful ways to continue supporting local communities, particularly those who had been most affected by the pandemic.

Through our partnership with ELBA, we have received skills development workshops and mentors, virtual 1:1 coaching sessions and tech donations. Through ELBA and its business partners, we have received much needed equipment, including five laptops enabling us to expand our ICT Skills lessons. In a world increasingly dominated by digital technology, digital inclusion is imperative.

We look forward to our partnership with ELBA and its partners continuing.

4) Do you have an inspirational story/moment about your work that you would like to share?
Our efforts for community-based work have been widely recognised to the extent that our flagship programme “Click & Connect 4 All”, which provides IT skills lessons for older people from disadvantaged backgrounds, won a prestigious Institute of Engineering and Technology Award in 2020 in the “Best Diversity & Inclusion Impact” category. We competed against some big names too, including universities with prestigious academics and a range of multinational corporations employing thousands of staff, such as BT and Emerson! There were hundreds of contenders for this award and we won! We are an organisation run by two volunteers and this award demonstrates what can be achieved.

Our Patron Lady Pilar Brennan received the news of the award, which was officially handed out at a ceremony at Lambeth College by Dr. Safia Barikzai representing IET and in the presence of Fiona Morley, Executive Principal of Lambeth College.

5) What kind of support are you in need of right now and how might volunteering fit into that?
We require funding and premises to be sustainable. In the process of expanding, we also need volunteers who may possess a variety of skills such as life skills, ICT skills, mental health advice, management skills, etc.  to help the charity run smoother at a lesser cost.

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