Bored of doing the same old things for Valentines Day? Got spare money because you didn't spend a fortune on overpriced chocolates and flowers?
How about this instead: Vivienne and Mya are celebrating by getting their heads shaved at gender-neutral barbershop Barberette, to raise money for London’s leading older LGBT* charity, Opening Doors London.
Opening Doors London started ten years ago, after Age UK Camden saw that there was void in support for older LGBT* people living in London. They run safe and welcoming social opportunities like lunches, film nights and dance classes, befriending for those who can’t get out easily, as well as helping people to access other services which might help them. LGBT* people from the older generations are three times more likely than their heterosexual counterparts to be single and live alone, less likely to have children, and far more likely to be estranged from their families, so they are at a much higher risk of isolation than heterosexual people of a similar age.
Case study showing how ODL helps
Brian is a member of ODL. He became extremely withdrawn from the world when his partner of 45 years died. He spent six years at home alone, only leaving his house between 9 and 9.30am to go food shopping – this became a daily routine and for those years his only social contact was with the sales assistant at the local supermarket. Brian was actually being treated for severe depression by a hospital psychologist, and it was the psychologist who saw an advert for the Opening Doors London Befriending Scheme and made a referral.
As a result of this kind of isolation, older LGBT* people are often far more reliant on formal care services – but due to the scars from decades of discrimination and social exclusion, they are far more likely to feel anxious and fearful about accessing them, meaning they struggle on for much longer than they should before they seek help, if they do at all. As well as helping people to access the services they need, ODL also campaigns for LGBT*-friendly services, trains mainstream service providers to help them become LGBT*-friendly, and encourages LGBT* services to make sure they consider the needs of older people in the community.
When the Befriending Coordinator first visited, Brian was sceptical about how much he could be helped. After regularly visiting him over a few months in order to get to know him, the coordinator introduced Brian to his volunteer befriender. The befriender is actually older than Brian and is retired, and has therefore been able to dedicate a lot of time to getting to know him. They have formed a really lovely friendship, and meet up at least three times a week, regularly taking trips to concerts, social events and other activities.
Over time, the Befriender has helped Brian become more and more socially included. They both attend Opening Doors London social groups and friendships with other members have blossomed. Brian continually thanks the Befriending Coordinator for the effect the Befriender has had on his life, saying “look how happy I am now, I never stop smiling”. The transformation - physically, mentally and emotionally - is incredible and access to the services through the Befriending scheme has been life changing.
Securing their future funding
Opening Doors London recently received some good news, with £500k of Lottery funding to help them to run for another four years – and, importantly, to enable them to expand all of their services to South London as well. The organisation is not quite out of the woods yet though - a condition of the funding is that ODL now needs to find the same amount from other sources.
Vivienne and Maya, who volunteer with ODL, wanted to help in some way, and came up with the idea of shaving their heads for ODL as a unique way to mark Valentine’s Day. Barberette, a gender-neutral barbershop where pricing is based on style rather than gender, was kind enough to donate their shop and services for the event.
“Loving someone of the same sex/gender should not be a reason for society to reject you, judge you or isolate you,” said Vivienne. “We're doing this for the generation which didn't have the benefit of open-mindedness and acceptance - a generation to whom we owe a great deal.”
Vivienne and Mya spent their Valentines Day getting their heads shaved; and then stayed on for a Valentine’s brunch afterwards – all were welcome!
Support the cause
Sponsor Vivienne and Mya online at: http://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/fundraiser-web/fundraiser/showFundraiserProfilePage.action?userUrl=vivandmya&isTeam=true
For more information on Opening Doors London see the website: openingdoorslondon.org.uk or call 020 7239 0400.
The end product
They did it! They've already raised over £1,400 but it isn't too late to help them to raise more!