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Brit Reads to Iceland’s Elderly

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Brit Reads to Iceland’s Elderly

Charles Gittins and Ólöf Hjálmarsdóttir.

Charles Gittins reading to Ól0f Hjálmarsdóttir. Photo: Screenshot from Stöð 2.

Charles Gittins from the UK takes part in the Icelandic Red Cross’ program where volunteers visit members of the community who are at risk of social isolation. Charles has become a good friend to 103-year-old Ólöf Hjálmarsdóttir, to whom he reads out loud in Icelandic.

When Charles moved to Iceland two years ago, he was determined to do something meaningful. “I wanted straight away to do something for this new society I intended to live in, give something back,” he explained.

“We’re a funny pair. I’m a foreigner and she’s never been to a foreign country. I’ve been in Iceland for two years and she for 103 years,” Charles told Stöð 2.

“It’s a project which both of us enjoy. I’m not just helping Ólöf, I also think it’s interesting to come and talk to her. She tells me stories about life in Iceland I would otherwise never hear about,” said Charles.

For example, Ólöf remembers the 1918 volcanic eruption in Katla, when she was five. “I lived at Frakkastígur 14 at the time and saw it from Skólavörðuholt [in Reykjavík, where Hallgrímskirkja church stands]. It was like a beautiful basket in the sky. I remember it well.”

Ólöf is fond of Charles, whom she describes as straight forward with a kind presence. “He’s a good man who has been brought up well. I haven’t made the acquaintance of many foreigners.”

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