An innovative project to train boys and girls as young as six to be Dementia Friends has placed the 81st Belfast Beaver Colony from Stranmilis among the winners of the Northern Ireland Dementia Friendly Awards.
The colony of boys and girls aged 6-8 years and their three leaders won the new category of Young Persons Contribution of the Year at the prestigious awards, held at the Europa Hotel yesterday (Wednesday, 12 October 2016). Beaver leaders Jacqui and Ian Berryman were presented with the award by host Sarah Travers, an Ambassador for Alzheimer’s Society.
Jacqui Berryman said she can’t wait to take the award back to the Colony to show the children who have been really enthusiastic about getting involved in the project, which they joined as part of the A Million Hand Project to mobilise half a million Scouts in support of four social issues. Jacqui, who has family experience of dementia, was very pleased when her Beaver Colony chose dementia.
Jacqui said: “The 81st Belfast Beaver Colony’s ‘Remember me..’ memory books project has been an enriching experience for everyone involved. Learning about dementia, creating the books and interacting with people living with dementia has made a lasting impact on the young people. They have raised awareness of people living with dementia by spreading the word to their families and the wider public.
“Scouting challenges individuals so that they learn and experience things that enrich their lives, but I believe that our project was truly intergenerational as both the young people and the elderly living with dementia were enriched by the experience of reading, singing and enjoying the poems, rhymes and songs together from our memory books,” Jacqui said.
She said that being around people with dementia while they are so young has ‘normalised’ the condition for the Beavers, and taken away the fear, so that the children will always accept and have a better understanding of people with dementia.
The children were also able to spark memories in the care home residents they visited. “Talking about toys and the games they played with children really brought the memories back – it’s different from an adult talking about memories, it was something in common.”
Sarah Travers, who was also a judge of the awards, said it had been encouraging to see all of the projects in the Young Person’s Contribution category and the awards as a whole, but the Beaver Colony had particularly caught her attention.
“It has been a real eye opener to see so many different ways individuals and organisations are making the world a friendlier place for people with dementia. It can be something as simple as changing the way you do things, just giving staff Dementia Friend training that can help them to understand customers with dementia and respond to their needs, or it could be bringing music back into their lives.
“So much of it comes down to awareness and understanding, so seeing the 81st Beaver Colony training up future Scouts as young as six really makes me optimistic. When you see how such young children can be so accepting of dementia as a part of life, it gives you real hope that until we find a cure, people will be able to live well with dementia, and that we’ll see the person, not the illness,” Sarah said.
Bernadine McCrory, Alzheimer’s Society Northern Ireland Director, said: “I want to congratulate the 81st Beaver Colony for winning the Young Persons Contribution Award. The contribution that they are making helps to make our communities more supportive and inclusive for the 20,000 people in Northern Ireland living with dementia, and for their families.
“The standard of entries for the awards this year has been excellent, and we’ve seen a real array of different ways that people make a difference in their community. Anyone can become a Dementia Friend, which is the first step in knowing more about dementia and how to help a person with dementia. Our winners all took this first step and went on from there, whether it’s school children, librarians, shop staff, care workers or bankers, they are all shaping a better future for people with dementia.”
These are the second annual awards, celebrating people and organisations that have made an outstanding contribution towards improving the life and experiences of people with dementia and categories range from individuals to whole communities.
Dementia Friendly Communities support and empower people with dementia to maintain their independence for as long as possible through inclusion, awareness and understanding.
For more information on the 81st Belfast Beaver Colony, please contact Jacqui Berryman on firstname.lastname@example.org or phone 028 9066 1940.