Krzysztof Mikata-Pralat (Chris)
‘I have used Fulham Good Neighbours for 20 years as I have limited sight. I live alone, without a carer, and FGN has enabled me to retain my independence.’ – Constance, a war veteran aged 91
Stepping over the threshold of The Captain Cook on a dank, dismal Tuesday lunchtime, I expected the Dawes Road pub to be quiet, with perhaps just a few punters taking refuge from the rain. Far from it. Gales of laughter and much animated chat were coming from the dining area, where a twenty-strong group was clearly enjoying a good catch-up.
‘This is one of our regular lunch clubs,’ smiles Krzysztof Mikata-Pralat (everyone calls him Chris), the friendly Director of Fulham Good Neighbours (FGN). ‘They are a fantastic opportunity for elderly people to make new friends and enjoy a proper social occasion. Our guests pay £5 for a three-course meal including soft drinks and teas and coffees.
Of course, it’s only possible to do this thanks to the generosity of local businesses who offer us highly subsidised meals.’
Founded in 1966, the charity coordinates free practical support for older residents (only the lunches have a nominal charge) and it’s consistent record of work in the SW6 community was recognised earlier this year with the Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service. ‘We were surprised and very proud,’ says Chris. ‘We didn’t even know that we had been nominated!
‘The original vision of neighbours looking out for each other’s welfare has remained exactly the same over the years. Our volunteers, many of whom are retired, happily give their time to assist with the daily tasks we take for granted – shopping, running errands, collecting medication, walking pets – but which some people can’t manage due to age, illness, disability and not having someone else around.
‘We also help with basic DIY jobs, such as decorating, and gardening, we teach internet skills and, most importantly, we provide a befriending service. That’s simply a matter of spending time with someone who can’t come to one of our get-togethers. With family ties less strong and isolation a growing problem, it’s so important to know that you’ll see a friendly face.’
Currently, Fulham Good Neighbours runs a variety of social clubs designed to encourage people to get out of the house, meet new people and have fun. ‘The events are built around hobbies and interests,’ explains Chris. ‘We have groups for art, shared reading, chair-based exercise and older carers and, in addition, we host Sunday afternoon teas twice a month, a weekly lunch club and two monthly lunches at a pub or restaurant.’
Hammersmith and Fulham Council covers 20-25% of the charity’s annual expenditure, with the shortfall being made up by applications to other funders and grantmakers. ‘A few years ago we benefitted from a wonderful bequest by a Czech lady – Nina Dobosharevich – who had settled in Fulham after the war,’ says Chris. ‘That put us on a firmer footing and we also raise money by organising the Parsons Green Fair. We’re grateful to those companies, in particular Marston Properties, who sponsor the event.
‘If you know someone in the area who we could help, please get in touch. And, of course, we welcome donations large or small (follow the Donate link on the website) and always need volunteers who can give us their time or practical expertise. We’re here to bring people in Fulham together and make life better for everyone.’
Fulham Good Neighbours
70 Rosaline Road
Fulham SW6 7QT