Our longest serving Older Friend, Joan Bolton is about to start her 20th year of volunteering for the Friendship Project and she’s also celebrating a milestone birthday this year. It’s hard to believe it but Joan is 80 years young and luckily for us and for her Younger Friends she has no intention of slowing down!
We’d like to pay tribute to the fantastic contribution she’s made to The Friendship Project and to the lives of her Younger Friends by telling you a little more about her.
Born and bred in Warwick, Joan attended Coten End Primary school followed by Shottery Girls School. She then went onto successfully complete 2 years of teacher training at Westwood College and during her career, taught at Shrubland Street Primary school, Clinton Primary school and then for 18 years at Bishops Tachbrook School.
When Joan retired, back in 1997, her neighbour encouraged her to join the Friendship Project and she’s been with us ever since! Her first YF was an 8 year old boy called Jake, who she supported until he was 15 years old. Along with many activities such as exploring the local country side and canals, fossil hunting and cycling, Joan introduced him to bowling down at the bowling green in Leamington. He was a very talented bowler, Jake played regularly with the Royal Leamington Spa men in matches & was selected to play for the county junior bowling team. Joan remembers being extremely proud of Jake’s achievement when he was presented with a trophy for winning the junior club competition.
Next, was Clare whom she befriended from the age of 6 to 16 years old. Clare had some real anger issues and at times was excluded from school but when she was out with Joan they got on very well and she behaved well too! Clare’s father writes, “Joan is a lovely lady, Clare has benefited a great deal, she is a very demanding kid, not easy to live with at times. But Joan lifts her up, brings her out of herself, my Clare loves Joan and always looks forward to seeing her. She has helped in so many ways, has Joan.” Clare as a young girl writes, “I love going out with Joan, I look forward to seeing her. I have lots of fun with her. Thank you Joan.”
In 2012 Joan became an Older Friend to Esme, who was then 6, and recently Joan has also become an Older Friend to Esme’s younger sister Sarah and takes the two girls out together. The children are cared for by their grandparents, who are extremely happy with Joan taking the girls out. They trust her totally and consider her one of the family. It gives them a well needed break. So instead of slowing down, Joan is taking on more by supporting 2 young girls. She has a lovely time with them, visiting local farms and parks, cycling down the greenway and doing crafts and baking.
Joan says the best part of being an Older Friend is the enjoyment she gets from “taking the kids out and going to do things I wouldn’t normally do without them”. Joan had the support of her late husband Keith who joined in with some of the outings, as well as her little dog Charlie, whom the children love.
In addition to being an Older Friend, Joan has worked for the Volunteer Bureau in Leamington Spa and also was a respite carer for children in Coventry, providing emergency respite care for children in need.
Joan is a very modest lady who has given a huge amount of time to supporting children in the local community. We are very privileged to have her as an Older Friend. Thank you, Joan!
*names of children have been changed.