23 January 2020
A walking group set up to combat social isolation is celebrating its two year anniversary this week, but the organiser is on a mission to make an even bigger impact.
Sandra Samuels-Allen came up with the idea after moving to St Mary’s Island, Chatham, and finding herself isolated and alone.
KMTV reports how a group set up to tackle loneliness has taken off
The 58-year-old said: “When you’re commuting into London you don’t get to know anybody here.”
Miss Samuels-Allen travels into the capital for her job in the rail industry, where she works on projects such as the Eurotunnel.
Coupled with the hours spent commuting and her marriage breaking down, she realised she needed to connect with other people experiencing the same loneliness.
She said: “Everyone feels so uplifted, because you get to meet new people and your learn from them.
Developments such as the Rochester Riverside complex are making the Medway Towns an increasingly attractive area for London professionals to base themselves.
With a greater number of potential commuters moving into the area, Miss Samuels-Allen wants to make sure she is reaching out to those who might be suffering from being lonely.
She said: “It’s so easily done – you move to a new town and you don’t know anybody.
“You can come and sit in a coffee shop and just people watch, but you’re not having a conversation with somebody.”
The Campaign to End Loneliness have said living alone and poor social connections are as bad for your health as smoking 15 cigarettes a day.
Miss Samuels-Allen now lives in Rochester, and runs the walking group on Tuesdays and fortnightly on Sundays.
The people joining the weekly rambles across the towns are aged between 40 and 70 years old.
The mental health first-aider said: “There’s no negativity in the group. It’s all about positivity and how we can work at moving forward.”
A study by The Co-op and the British Red Cross revealed over 9 million adults in the UK – more than the population of London – are either always or often lonely.
Despite her busy full-time job and weekly walks, Miss Samuels-Allen has yet more ambitions for improving the lives of people in the community.
She said: “Last year we walked from Rochester to Chatham handing out blankets and other items to the homeless.
“This year I’m going to be looking at dementia, so I’m going to go into into a local community home and give my time to people living with dementia.”