Volunteer who devoted 17yrs to tackling anti-isolation honoured with British Citizen Award


Volunteer who devoted 17yrs to tackling anti-isolation honoured with British Citizen Award (Image: PAULETTE SUBAN)

Paulette left the corporate world behind to help her community, 17 years ago.  It started when she “popped into a little church” in her area and met several elderly members of the community and the former chairman of Cape Community Care Day Centre a registered charity.

“There was probably about four or five gentlemen and ladies, and the chairman at that time he was quite old as well, quite elderly,” Paulette explained.

“And he actually said to me, a complete stranger, ‘they’ve sent me a letter and they’ve told me to look online, and I don’t know how to do it’. And I helped him.

“Then, the week after I popped in again, and that was my conscience kicking in there.

“Weeks went by, months went by, [and] I just fell in love with the place so I gave up my job and then that’s where I’ve been [ever since],” she explained.


Since then, Paulette has gone on to develop the day centre for the elderly, alongside other projects like Cape Tots, a parent and toddler group, Cape Befriending & Cape Visiting, Cape Community Shop, and the Youth Group.

Speaking about some of the services, Paulette said: “We’ve got a free Youth Club, which is amazing. We look after 30-32 children every week and keep the children off the streets.

“A lot of the attendees are older children, so it’s between the ages of 13 and 16. Now obviously, we’re reducing gang crime and things like that.

“We also have a mother and toddler group, we do a food bank with the community shops.

“We have a ladies group – I’m taking the ladies all the ladies at the end of this month to a ladies retreat.

“We’re all based in a deprived area. So it’s all about reducing isolation, social integration, remaining positive, making sure they’re happy, giving them rich experiences,” she added.

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Cape Community Care Day Centre

The day centre offers lots of services – pictured, an exercise class for the elderly (Image: PAULETTE SUBAN )

Cape Community Care Day Centre.

Paulette set up Re-Stim-U-Late-YOU during lockdown (Image: PAULETTE SUBAN)

Paulette’s focus has always been to connect people in the community: “Before the pandemic isolation was bad, but it’s worse now – especially with me doing the senior club day centre, we had probably about 50 to 65 each week, we still had a few that were housebound so we used to go and see them.

“We offer a visiting service and befriending service. Now, while we’ve gone back to normal – even though the pandemic is still here – we have about 25 people that attend regularly.

“A lot of them have deteriorated physically so they can’t come out. A lot of them are still, they’re well, but they’re scared to come out.

“During the pandemic, we were doing this project called Re-Stim-U-Late-YOU, we would go around and set up a little table, chairs, mask, hand sanitisers and a tablet and we were showing the elders how to go online, do garden exercises – it was an amazing project, thoroughly enjoyed.”

Re-Stim-U-Late-YOU was a project that focused on the mental and physical stimulation of senior beneficiaries whilst shielding.

And “it’s changed the lives” of those who took part.

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Paulette continued: “One of the elders is 82 years old, another is 78 who has actually bought their own laptop since and typed their first letter on this laptop which is truly amazing.

“With a lot of them, they were very anxious about using the tablet. We had a few problems because we didn’t realise a lot of them haven’t got Wi-Fi. So that slowed us down.

“But from that, we’ve got weekly online zoom classes, afternoon tea sessions, health communication sessions, etc.

“Now that we’ve opened back in the centre we have like a formal training day once a month, and we’re still doing it for the home-bound just to keep them connected.

“The elders now feel empowered, their confidence has grown, one of them is actually making their own doctor’s appointments, which is a really big thing, especially now where you’ve got a call at eight o’clock and it’s difficult and everything’s going online.

“They’re kind of the last generation really because they’re not really included in that, so the ones we’ve got have excelled, the ones that are still anxious, they’ll try it but they’ll kind of stop it in the end. But they still will come to the centre and do their little bit in the training sessions.

“But yes, definitely life-changing experience.”

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Cape Community Care Day Centre

The community centre organised a Jubilee Party (Image: PAULETTE SUBAN)

Despite being busy helping the elders, Paulette has made time for the young generation too with the Youth Creations Kids Club.

“The services we offer for young people is to keep them off the streets, that’s primarily because in the area, we have a lot of gang culture,” she said.

“To be honest, my advocate is my son. He’s 15, he got himself into some trouble. So I think initially when I started the club, it was because I was working all the hours God sends in the corporate world, and every holiday I was sending him off to a holiday camp that I had to pay for and I wanted to spend some time with him.

“So that was a seed that was planted, so I set up a youth club for him.

“They [the children] don’t pay anything at all to attend. We give them respite for the parents or the carers – especially at that age where they are little men and little women – they think they are adults but they’re still children. They want their own space. They want their own independence.

“What we found is they’re clashing with their parents. So we offer that respite, we offer them empowerment, we offer them experiences as well.

“In the holidays, we get the two generations together – the young people and the seniors together. The young people come and befriend the elders in the day centre. They go on trips together and they have to sit next to an elder.

“But they [the children] come all year all, free of charge and one of the trips they have to hang out with an elder on the coach, take them to the seaside, talk to them and make sure they’re okay.”

As for why Paulette decided to change her career and dedicate her life to serving others, she explained: “When I see them smile, when they cry through happiness – many years ago, probably about seven years ago, I took all the seniors out to a carvery. And this is what really got me.

“I took them all to a carvery, and I’ve got a son who’s 15 and we go to the carvery regularly – he grew up in the carvery. We walk in and we’re on first first name terms – that’s how popular he is.

“And to take all these elders, they were so anxious about going out.

“When we got inside and they were nervous, they were all huddled in the corner and a couple of them cried and they said to me that they’ve never been to a restaurant in their lives. That upset me.

Cape Community Care Day Centre

Cape Community Care Day Centre takes the elders on days out to restaurants and seasides (Image: PAULETTE SUBAN )

“The majority of our elders are black Caribbean that have come from their countries to England, and they’ve brought up children. They’ve obviously been married, they’ve worked. But they haven’t done anything for themselves.

“When I took then to the seaside, one of them actually said the most water they’ve ever seen is in their bath – they’ve never been to a seaside.

“So for me, that is my passion, giving them new experiences and making their golden years happy.

“That’s my proudest moment – to give them first experiences,” she added.

As for what Paulette’s future ambitions are, she revealed: “We’re doing a lot, but there was one thing that’s in my heart, I’d like to do a care home.

“I think that’s mainly because a lot of them [the elderly] have to come to this country, they’ve got their homes, and they rattle around in big homes, they’re downstairs.

“Their children have all moved away which is sad to see, so they’re not really been looked after. And when they’ve gone into a home, they’ve deteriorated even worse.

“I’d like to give them a lasting feeling, a home from home environment is an inclusive care home, so they live longer.”

Cape Community Care Day Centre is a registered charity (1122721), Visit the website here to learn more or donate. 

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