Wednesday 5 July 2023

International Boarder Builds Bridges of Friendship Across Cultures and Generations

Caring Marvin Kou, a Lower Sixth student from St Joseph’s College was among the young people from three of the town’s schools celebrated at an awards event in an Ipswich care home. The event was laid on by the home and the West Suffolk charity which had trained the teenagers to befriend people living with dementia.

Marvin and students from St Alban’s Catholic High School and Ipswich School, have been visiting residents at Prince of Wales House in Prince of Wales Drive since before Christmas. Known as YOPEY Befrienders, they have spent an hour or two each week with the residents, joining activities, playing games and conversing with the elderly people.

Founder of the Newmarket charity YOPEY, Mr Tony Gearing MBE, said: ‘Keeping people with dementia mentally and physically active is believed to slow the progress of these terrible diseases.

‘At the same time, the young born in the 21st century are learning about the 20th century. Today many people living in care homes were children in the Second World War. The young get to learn about the 1940s, ‘50s and ‘60s from people who were there.’

Seven teenagers from St Joseph’s College and Ipswich School were presented with certificates by the High Sheriff of Suffolk, Mr Mark Pendlington. Seven others from St Alban’s were unable to attend but have had their awards sent on.

The certificates recognise the number of hours each young person had dedicated to visiting the old folk and marked extra special efforts by some of the young volunteers.

One of the young befrienders told the assembled audience of residents, care workers and teachers about the coronation party at the home that she and other YOPEY visitors had joined. ‘We were given ribbons and danced with residents to the Beatles and cockney songs. It was heart-warming to watch their souls reignited and the flooding of happy memories cued by the music. It was also really fascinating to listen to their stories due to their memories.’

St Joseph’s Principal, Mrs Danielle Clarke, attended the presentation with Head of Sixth Form, Mrs Katherine Simpson-Jacobs. Mrs Clarke said ‘The College is very proud of Marvin and the wonderful relationships he has built with the residents at The Prince of Wales House. He has gained so much experience, knowledge and confidence from YOPEY Befriender – we are now going to expand this opportunity ten-fold for our students in September.’

Marvin, whose home is in Macao, is an international boarder at St Jo’s.

Despite being the only St Joseph’s student taking part this year, Marvin happily mixed in with the others in training and went on to show great resilience, visiting the care home alone weekly to spend time with its residents, some of whom have advanced dementia. Next year he will be leading a group of fellow Joeys at Prince of Wales House, while Ipswich School YOPEY Befrienders will visit a second Ipswich care home, Sherrington House in Sherrington Road. 

For more information about YOPEY Befriender visit

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