This befriending week, we are celebrating everything that befriending is, the difference it makes to individuals, families and communities, and the amazing contribution made by the many wonderful volunteer befrienders out there.
Loneliness is a growing issue in our society and has been a particular concern throughout the pandemic. Most people have experienced feelings of isolation in the last year and a half but for a lot of people in our communities, feelings of isolation and loneliness are enduring. Being matched with a volunteer befriender, having something to look forward to and someone to share stories with, is such a positive experience for people and beneficial to health.
Befriending can make a big difference to the lives of people who are matched with a befriender, but it can also offer some comfort to family members. We live in a society in which, many people live some distance from their families. Being able to refer a loved one to a befriending service can be a relief to family members who are concerned about a loved one who is feeling lonely or isolated. They can rest in the knowledge that every week their loved one will have a friendly visit from a trusted organisation.
Befriending can also provide a link between a person experiencing feelings of isolation, to their local community. Befrienders can tell the person they are matched with, stories from their neighbourhood, they may be able to visit the local shops or have a drink with their befriender in a local cafe. Feelings of isolation and loneliness diminish which is hugely beneficial for emotional wellbeing.
Befriending is not however a one-way experience. Volunteer befrienders report how much they enjoy the visits they make. They talk about the rewards of knowing you are making a difference, the joy of meeting someone knew and hearing their stories. They report how happy it makes them feel, to know they are bringing happiness to others. Befriending can be a wonderful way to manage your own feelings of loneliness too, as volunteers are also building new friendships and giving something back to their community.
At Time to Talk, we are so grateful to all of our wonderful volunteers. They have supported people throughout the pandemic, finding creative ways to stay in touch with people, doorstep visits, sitting in gardens, going for walks. They have offered their time every week to make a difference to someone else. Without our volunteers, we would not be able to provide the support that we do.
Befriending week is an opportunity to extend a huge thank you to all volunteer befrienders. You are keeping people connected, making people smile and reminding people that someone out there cares.