02 Jun
  • By Jeremy Sharpe
  • Cause in

Volunteers’ Week 2021

June 1-7 is Volunteers’ Week, and we’d love to take the opportunity to say a huge thank you to all the volunteers supporting regional Linking Lives befriending projects. Whether you are coordinating a project, doing admin work behind the scenes, or making weekly visits or phone calls as a befriender, your role is essential in helping to tackle loneliness across the UK. Thank you for all you are doing!

In celebration of this week, we would love to share these wonderful stories from some befrienders for Bedford Linking Lives …

“There are so many people who live on their own and just want a friend to talk to.”

Janet* befriends three older ladies who have all lost their husbands.

“I have always loved people and for many years was the scheme manager of sheltered housing for those over 55 and with disabilities. When I retired, I looked for other things to do. After my husband passed away, nearly 4 years ago, I also felt very alone. I’m so pleased that I became involved with the befriending scheme. Once again, I have turned things around and have even more friends who may have the same experiences as myself.

There are so many people who live on their own and they just want a friend to talk to, and it’s a privilege to be able to be there and listen. Befriending is very much a two-way process; I have made friends and get as much back as I give. I do love my Link Friends and love to hear their experiences, and they love to reminisce on important times, people, and places. It’s so rewarding when, at the end of the conversation, I hear my Link friend say, ‘It’s been lovely talking to you. I always feel better after talking to you.’ I know I have done a good job. I feel it is very important to leave a person in a happy mood, with happy thoughts, as they may not speak to another person for the rest of the week.

I would recommend becoming a befriender to anyone. After all, a stranger is just a friend we haven’t met yet.”

“We have so much in common”

Margaret* befriended a lady during lockdown who lived alone and had been referred to the service by a Social Prescriber. The two formed a great friendship and are still in touch weekly.

“I have always been conscious of people who live on their own and are lonely, and made an effort to keep in contact by visiting or phoning and offering practical support on an informal basis. When we were suddenly plunged into lockdown due to Covid-19, I became aware Bedford Linking Lives was looking for volunteers to be befrienders to people living in our community identified as being lonely through a referral system.

I was asked if I would be interested in becoming a volunteer and I accepted the challenge to be involved in a much needed and worthwhile service to our community. I was linked with a lovely lady whom I have not yet met face to face, but we have spoken on the phone 2 to 3 times per week. She has a good sense of humour and values her independence even though it gets lonely sometimes. We have both looked forward to the phone calls as we have a lot in common, including previous employment, and have some acquaintances in common.

My Link Friend has told me she finds our conversations very uplifting and they ‘perked her up, giving her something to look forward to.’ It was good being able to speak to someone and help them and has done me the world of good too.”

“Sometimes if we have that one phone call or meet up once a week to look forward to, our horizons expand and the world seems a better place.”

Ann* befriended a lady in her 80s who had become isolated, and the two became firm friends. Sadly Ann’s Link Friend passed away towards the end of 2020. She is now supporting another Link Friend.

“There is a difference between ‘aloneness’ and ‘loneliness’. The first you can enjoy and the second not. I guess most, if not all of us, have experienced the latter at some time. I live alone, so I understand both. This is why I ‘befriend’.
One thing Covid 19 has shown us, if we didn’t know it before, is that humans need contact. We deteriorate physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually when it’s taken away from us. We need people to gain perspective on what we’re going through.

Sometimes we can make sense of our circumstances and get by if we have that one phone call or meet up once a week to look forward to. Our horizons expand and the world seems a better place.

My lovely Link Friend was in her 80s, but full of life and experience, and not self-pitying. I loved her. We made each other feel good – isn’t that the essence of ‘befriending’? When she died suddenly, I felt so sorry but so privileged to hear the news from her daughter and to have known and been accepted by my Link Friend.

She made me laugh and she helped me with my own perspective on life. I helped her with some worries she had around gardening, exercise and just ‘getting through’ the days. We did each other good, to put it in a nutshell. I recall the delight in being able to share with her photos of Rudyard Kipling’s garden and pond – it felt as though she was there sharing the experience. We looked forward to the time we’d be able to meet up, though it was not to be. I hope it made the six months she had in contact with me an easier time.

That is why I befriend.”

*Names have been changed to protect privacy