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Since 2014, Sandra Hughes has been involved with Alzheimer’s Society. Starting off as a volunteer in a local peer support group run by Alzheimer’s Society, she then signed up to become a Dementia Friend, and later became a Dementia Friends Ambassador. Sandra wanted to be able to help her local area become a dementia friendly community by creating a local dementia café.

Sandra said: “Sprowston Community Dementia Café, located on the outskirts of Norwich, is now extremely successful supporting approximately 40 families. I still volunteer with various support groups in my area, currently trying to rebuild the Costessey Dementia Café following the pandemic. Talking to families and individuals who are affected by dementia or memory loss really emphasises how people are able to continue to live well, their amazing resilience and sense of humour.”

Sandra and colleagues discovered that many of the dementia café and support groups were no longer functioning since Covid. “Our aim was to put this right with an up-to-date list of all the fantastic volunteer groups around in the community that are hidden, making it easier for carers, professionals and family members to find help that is so desperately needed.”

As a Dementia Friends Ambassador, Sandra has met so many people in different walks of life, from neighbours seeking help, to schools, Brownies, Rainbows, youth clubs, WIs, church groups, town or parish councils and onwards.

Sandra said: “Everybody has different stories to tell about their own experiences with dementia or they leave with ideas about how they can change their businesses for the better. Just one small change can make such a big difference in a community.”

Sandra shares her favourite thing about being a Dementia Friends Ambassador: “I love being an Ambassador, it has given me so many opportunities to meet different people of all age groups and from different backgrounds. And if one person can take on board some of the messages from the Information Session then I feel my job has been well done. I am very proud of what I do and would highly recommend any form of volunteering as a way of keeping the mind active and engaged, while giving something back to the community.” 

In October 2023 Sandra was awarded the ‘Inspiration of the Year’ award from Broadland District Council for her work with both dementia cafés and being a Dementia Friends Ambassador.