The Dementia Friends are doing their bit to help raise awareness in North Devon.

A group of dedicated people are doing their bit in North Devon to help create up to four million dementia friends nationally by 2020.

The Gazette went along to a regional meeting of dementia friends champions at Heanton church’s Hewett Room to find out more about their work.

They run sessions with companies, churches, schools and community groups to encourage more people to sign up and become a dementia friend.

The Dementia Friends initiative from the Alzheimer’s Society seeks to to raise awareness of how people are affected by living with dementia and the ways in which anyone can help make their daily lives a little easier.

Let's Talk About It - the North Devon Gazette's campaign on mental health.Let's Talk About It - the North Devon Gazette's campaign on mental health.

There are now 33 dementia friends champions in North Devon and Torridge, with an estimated 4,235 dementia friends signed up.

Regional manager Aimee Packwood said the champions got together when they could to share ideas.

She said: “We would love as many people as possible to become friends or champions – it’s very easy to become a friend and it’s about learning the small things you can do to make a difference.

“The great thing about being a champion is you can be flexible and choose how active you want to be. We want to create a dementia friend generation so that people grow up without the fear of it.”

Champions ranged from William Gillings from Cullompton to Christine Westlake, who lives just down the road in Braunton and was described by Aimee as ‘one of our superstars’.

Christine has run 48 Dementia Friends sessions in the North Devon area and created 659 friends.

“Most of the groups are quite wary, but once you’ve done the session they are very grateful and realise there’s a lot more they can do to help,” she said.

Christine has run sessions for youth groups, including Guides and Brownies as well as local schools.

She said: “The young people actually come up with better answers to my questions and some brilliant actions they are going to carry out.

“We are making a difference locally and many businesses have called me afterwards to say they have put it into practice.”

Find out how to become a dementia friend or champion by going to