WINCHESTER'S ex-Ghurkha soldiers and Nepali elders are taking part in a pioneering project to reduce social isolation whilst improving their English.

The Elders Crafts & English Exchange (ECEE) will see 11 crafts exchange groups across the county, including Winchester and Eastleigh. Craft skills and conversational English are shared in an effort to build friendships and community cohesion.

The launch at St Barnabas Church Hall in Weeke, on November 22, saw 17 Nepali elders and 13 English-speaking volunteers making pom-poms, rug weaving and model making, while they conversed in English and discussed their respective cultures.

Last year Pramila Rai approached Winchester Area Community Action (WACA) with the idea that elders from her community would benefit from conversational classes.

She said: “Many Nepali and ex-Ghurkha elders from Winchester attended and they all keenly took part in the creative craft activities. It was wonderful to see all the elders with smiles on their faces throughout the session and their response afterwards has been very positive.”

The initiative was made possible after WACA received a grant from The Silver Dreams Fund, provided by the Big Lottery.

WACA deputy chief executive, Elizabeth McKerracher, said: “I was humbled by their appreciation, both the Nepali elders and the English volunteers. It was quite something to see the dream realised.”