ECT Charity is on a mission to end loneliness and isolation.
We do this by enabling those who are unable to access mainstream transport to venture out of their homes: whether for a shopping trip or doctor’s appointment, or an excursion to the seaside.
There are lots of people who work hard to make these journeys possible. Our Journey Makers series shines a light on them – from our well-trained, caring drivers to the community members who organise transport for local groups.
Guests were welcomed into a tinsel-covered fire station and offered mince pies and cake by Acton and Chiswick firefighters, a group of Brent cadets and local volunteers.
After a raffle, everyone was invited to sing carols accompanied by a group of string musicians from Street Orchestra Live, an orchestra which plays across a wide range of community spaces, from nursing homes to prisons. To bring the afternoon’s activities to a close, a firefighter dressed up as Santa Claus slid down the station’s firefighters’ pole, and handed out gifts to guests.
This was the fifth tea party organised by Acton’s Red Watch Manager Kim Jerray-Silver, who is this week’s Journey Maker. She started organising regular gatherings to address the high levels of isolation she had witnessed among the elderly people she met on fire safety home visits in the area.
Guests at the parties, many of whom have lived alone since the death of a partner, are invited to socialise, as well as to learn some potentially life-saving fire safety tips.
ECT has partnered with the Acton Fire Station since the tea parties began in 2017, providing transport for the invitees who are unable to use mainstream public transport. As a part of ECT’s Transport Fund, this journey is offered to passengers for free.
Our Journey Maker Kim explains how the partnership with ECT first began:
“After deciding that I would like to hold the tea parties, the next stage was thinking: how am I going to get people here? Most of the people we wanted to invite really struggle with public transport.
“I spoke to Rupa Huq, the MP for Ealing and Acton, about the idea and she mentioned ECT. From there, I got in touch with ECT who said they would love to get involved.
“Five tea parties later, and the partnership has flourished! ECT provides us with two minibuses and two drivers for every tea party for free, and I really don’t know how we would get people there without them.
“I wanted the tea parties to join up different organisations that are all trying to do the same thing: tackle isolation amongst elderly and vulnerable people. Other groups have been involved too, from Neighbourly Care, which invites the guests, to Acton’s Morrisons and a company called DSI Foods which offers sandwiches, tea and coffee.
“As well as creating opportunities to socialise, we also use these events as a chance to educate our guests about fire safety. Statistics show that adults over 65 are twice as likely to die from a fire in a home than any other age group, so at the parties we give some safety advice as well as refer people for home visits from firefighters.
“I have witnessed new friendships being formed. At our Christmas tea party last year, one lady who arrived was so scared that she wouldn’t come past the front door. She was very shy and didn’t open up, however, at our summer party in August she was chatting to all the others and had come out of her shell. You wouldn’t have even recognised her as the same person.
“There’s so much strength in combining forces rather than working separately. We’re hoping to keep arranging at least one tea party per quarter, and we would really struggle without the community transport help. With limited funds, working together makes everything possible.
“Other fire stations have seen what we’re doing and have been inspired to do something similar for the isolated and vulnerable members of their communities – it feels good to be influencing change across the country!”