Every week, Irish in Britain’s member organisations serve thousands of meals to Irish elders who attend their lunch clubs. Health Officer Marie Dillon visited Bexleyheath to meet the members of one such lunch club run by Irish Community Services (ICS).
The Bexleyheath club takes place in the main hall in the United Reformed Church in Geddes Place, and is one of five clubs run by ICS across three London boroughs.
Despite the freezing weather, there was almost a full house! Most people there had arrived via public transport or the disability bus organised by ICS. With high levels of long–term limiting illnesses in the Irish community, Chair of ICS Ann Lucas highlighted the importance of making sure the clubs are inclusive, accessible and welcoming to all.
I arrived just as lunch was being served. With some members attending multiple clubs in a week, lunch club chef Debbie plans the menus so that they are nutritious, appetizing and varied. Director of ICS Ellen Stafford spoke to me about their emphasis on healthy balanced meals and the positive response to recent healthy changes introduced by Lunch Club Coordinator Ann Marie Kiely.
Volunteers are essential to the running of the clubs. Sean from Leitrim, was on hand to welcome everyone, keep track of numbers and make sure we all got our raffle tickets. The other volunteers, having already set up the hall, were busy serving food and tea and coffee and welcoming the members. To support the sustainability of our members volunteer base, Irish in Britain recently launched a volunteer section on our website. Find out more here
After lunch I had the opportunity to speak with the clubs two newest members, Tom and his mother Sylvia. Tom is Sylvia’s carer, he decided to start going to the club so that they could both remain active and simply have a reason to get out and about. For many people lunch clubs provide more than just a hot meal. They are a safe space where members feel comfortable around each other, and it can be a great opportunity for respite for carers. Lunch clubs are often the port of call for people who are seeking support or advice about other issues such as welfare or health matters. Find out about ICS’S new carers group run by Carers Manager Mary Pegler here.
With 1 in 5 Irish people living alone, and 240,000 Irish people aged 60–79 in England services such as the ICS lunch clubs are key to combatting loneliness and promoting health messages to the Irish community. After lunch I had the opportunity to chat to the members about the Green Hearts Challenge and encourage some small changes that can make a big difference to our physical and mental wellbeing.
There are numerous ways to support the wellbeing work of Irish charities such as ICS. Whether it’s through volunteering opportunities, donations or offering your skills as a board member, we’d love to hear from you.
To find out more about how you can get involved as an individual or business, contact Marie at firstname.lastname@example.org or 077 956 77475
Irish Community Services (formerly Irish in Greenwich) was founded in 1984 to provide a positive voice for the local Irish community. At the same time the Irish Government’s increased its resolve to assist the diaspora, particularly the elderly and vulnerable and gave us encouragement and support to move into new areas of pressing need.
Our aim has remained constant – to look after our elderly, our vulnerable and those in our community who are isolated and on the margins. We are firmly set on improving our services to our traditional constituency as well as providing services for ‘heavy needs’ working with homeless, rough sleepers and prisoners.
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Tel: 020 8854 4466 Fax: 020 8854 2992