7th February 2024

Isolation amongst older people set to reduce thanks to Suffolk Freemasons

Rural Suffolk's older population will begin to feel more connected, thanks to a grant of £15,000 from Suffolk Freemasons to the Rural Coffee Caravan (RCC). This substantial grant aims to address the growing issue of rural isolation among individuals over 65 in Suffolk, where dwindling services, lack of public transport, and limited online access exacerbate the problem.

The Age UK Loneliness map highlights pockets of high and very high risk of loneliness across Suffolk, underscoring the urgent need for initiatives like the one led by the RCC.  The organisation's innovative approach involves a mobile community cafe and information centre, operated by a roving caravan and three campervans, where they can reach out to remote communities. The RCC provides tea and cake, a warm and friendly atmosphere, and valuable signposting to support services.  Moreover, the RCC fosters community connections through initiatives such as 'More Than A Shop', encouraging local stores to become hubs of friendship and connection. Importantly, RCC ensures these events are accessible to all, offering them free of charge to encourage widespread participation.

In 2022, the RCC made over 200 village visits throughout Suffolk, welcoming more than 5,000 visitors. Despite challenges posed by the pandemic, their 'Meet Up Mondays' initiative reached an impressive throughput of 20,000 participants. The heart of RCC's success lies in the meaningful relationships it nurtures among rural residents. In November 2023, the RCC won a European Social Services Award for Service Delivery. The theme of the Awards this year, was ‘Person Centred Care’. The only UK organisation shortlisted in this category, the RCC was able to showcase their work demonstrating that simple acts of kindness have blossomed into robust social networks, transforming these rural areas into vibrant, connected communities. The grant from Suffolk Freemasons comes through the Masonic Charitable Foundation, funded by Freemasons, their families, and their friends from across England, Wales and the Channel Islands.

Ann Osborn from the RCC said: "Thanks to the generous support of Suffolk Freemasons, we’re able to continue to address isolation across rural Suffolk and help older people connect with each other. We know how much our community benefit from our services, and we look forward to supporting people in the years to come."

Jon Neill from Suffolk Freemasons: “I’m very pleased we’re able to help RCC and support the important work they are doing for older people in Suffolk. Their approach provide much-needed support to older people who are feeling isolated from their community and helps bring them together.”

More information about the charity can be found at www.ruralcoffeecaravan.org.uk