As part of our series of Q&As with Linking Lives coordinators, we speak to Sarah, the Coordinator for Leicester Western Ward Linking Lives, about her experience of helping to tackle loneliness and what she has learned through her role …
Hi Sarah! When and why did you set up your Linking Lives project?
We set up LWWLL nearly 5 years ago. We had spent time as a church in prayer, praying for our area, praying we could help, praying we could share God with others. Whilst praying, loneliness weighed heavy on our hearts. Part of our area is a deprived council estate with lots of bungalows and flats. We knew God wanted us to make a difference and we prayed every Friday about how to do that (our prayer group still meets on a Friday morning, at the moment through Zoom).
We then stumbled across some other local people including an area support worker and together we began a friendship coffee morning at our local library. It was well attended but we knew there were people that couldn’t get to the coffee morning but were instead lonely and isolated behind closed doors. Our coffee morning has been running for over 6 years, and I was employed to coordinate our befriending scheme 2 years after it began.
What is the most important thing you have learned about loneliness during your time coordinating the project?
You can be surrounded by family and still be lonely and in need of a friend. You can’t always share what you need to with family. So, every referral needs viewing on its own merit to ensure we don’t miss those who need us most.
Do you have a favourite memory from your time in this role?
The first assessment I carried out. The lady (Win) was amazing, so inspiring, talkative, friendly and easy to match, but I also remember seeing her independence and physical health improve to a point where she was again able to walk with a frame, without falling, all the way to our church (a third of a mile)!
My other favourite is the Via Ferrata (it is on YouTube, LWWLL via ferrata). I climbed a waterfall in Scotland to raise funds for LWWLL. It was amazing, something I had wanted to do for years and our scheme benefited from the monies raised. I stood at the top as I had just completed the climb and I thanked God, and I said, “Hey Win, I did it” – she had died 2 days earlier.
Do you have a particular story of a successful match or someone whose life has been changed through your project that you can share with us?
We had a lady who felt the benefit at her very first introduction to her volunteer. They clicked instantly and she said, “It is so nice to feel like I matter to someone again”, her smile beaming. She had no local relatives and her neighbour had become her carer.
What is your favourite or most rewarding thing about being a Linking Lives coordinator?
The interactions with Link friends, with volunteers and with allied services. The conversations, the introductions, then watching the match/friendship develop. Seeing a volunteer grow in confidence too. Getting to know the Link friends and the volunteers.