The first Young People of the Year campaign and awards were run in 2005. The aim was to give young people a fairer image and to heal the rift between generations by setting up young people doing good in their communities as positive role models for all generations to celebrate. Young People of the Year became the registered charity YOPEY in 2012.
Today we encourage young people to become good citizens by getting involved in and leading projects that benefit the wider community. Since 2013, we have been running YOPEY Befriender schemes. Under these projects, we recruit and train young people to relate to people living with dementia and then support them to visit local care homes and befriend residents.
YOPEY Befriender aims to heal intergenerational wounds by simultaneously improving the quality of life of elderly care home residents and developing empathy and compassion within young people. The care home experience can often be isolating for the elderly, and YOPEY Befriender aims to welcome the elderly back into the community.
With one million people in the UK predicted to have dementia by 2025 and two million by 2050, it is likely that our young volunteers will experience the impact of dementia in their own families during their lives. Equipping young people with the skills to navigate and support those with dementia is a key part of YOPEY’s strategy to enhance the experiences of the elderly in the UK.
Staff and family members of the care home residents often report the positive impact the YOPEY Befrienders have on the broader experience of not just residents but those who visit and work at the care home. The daughter of one care home resident, for example, said the young people “help my mum to have a better day”. The wife of another resident noted: “It is also good for the staff as it takes a little pressure off them.”
Our goal is to ensure that young people relate to, and not fear, elderly people living with dementia. At YOPEY, we provide consistent support to our YOPEY Befrienders for a year, providing them with training, regular contact, support materials, activities and projects to embark on with the elderly residents. Funding allows us to provide this wide-ranging support, recruit new YOPEY Befrienders as their predecessors ‘retire’ after a year, and keep our websites up to date with relevant information for our volunteers, schools and care homes, and the wider public.
The benefits are felt by everyone touched by our work. As one young YOPEY Befriender said: “Although you may think it is the residents receiving our visits that benefit the most, I think it is the other way round.”
The year of volunteering encourages the young people to think in different ways – about their new friends, about life in general and about their futures – and act independently. It can help them discover talents and passions and open their eyes to new careers. For example. a young woman who took part in an early YOPEY Befriender scheme is now a care assistant, having been inspired by her involvement with YOPEY to a different career path. Many other past YOPEY Befrienders are now doctors or nurses, or training for these careers.
YOPEY has a vision to establish the East of England – Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire, Essex, Hertfordshire, Norfolk and Suffolk – as a best practice area, to be a Beacon for Befriending, that can be replicated across the UK by other charities and organisations.
Each project involves typically one school and one care home in the same town or city, and ideally no more than a mile apart. Although around 100 young and elderly people, and care home staff, are directly involved, each project enhances the lives of many more from the relatives of residents to the families of the YOPEY Befrienders who hear about the scheme and dementia from their enthusiastic sons and daughters.
Beyond these people, whole communities hear about the good work of YOPEY Befrienders through the positive publicity YOPEY achieves in modern and traditional media. We have had social media posts that reached thousands and often get positive publicity in local newspapers and regional TV and radio.
Become a Funder
At YOPEY, we are proud of the success of our projects. If you become a funder, we are sure you would be proud of our work too.
We encourage grants for the full annual cost of a scheme (price on application) but are grateful for smaller grants and will combine these with other grants to pay for whole projects.