At the start of the Covid-19 pandemic it was clear that those most vulnerable in our communities were going to need a lot of help and support. Quite quickly community response groups were formed, and an emergency response was activated to ensure people had support with shopping, medication, meals, emergency food parcels. However, with lockdown measures imposed, those who were clinically vulnerable and who were older, immediately became cut off from the communities in which they lived.
Through my employed role working in my community and the partnerships/collaborative working I had been engaged with, I was only too aware of the need for befriending support for those already isolated. Covid-19 was about to deliver a whole new set of challenges. In my employed role here at Age Concern Colchester and North East Essex, I encourage volunteering and it was that highlighted the need for us all to do our bit and I too knew I had to volunteer my time and what better way to do that than become a befriender, giving a little of my time to someone else and hopefully to make a difference?
I knew just who to contact and soon the befriending co-ordinator had talked me through the process, emailed me all the relevant documentation and training links, I set to work and completed this and it wasn’t long before I was ready to be matched as a friend.
So began our befriending journey…
I was given good background information to my friend, so I was soon ready to make my first call.
Frank had been prepared for my call and knew who would be contacting him. We chatted to introduce ourselves and so began our befriending journey.
That was on the 30 April and we have chatted every week since for an hour each time mostly. Gradually we have got to know each other well; it has always been relaxed and we are now very comfortable talking to each other, why wouldn’t we be?
We have become friends.
Obviously due to the COVID pandemic we have been unable to meet face-to-face, but we did have one occasion when I surprised him with an afternoon tea treat for him and his wife through a work initiative with which I was involved. He was thrilled that I had thought of them both and finally he could put a face to a voice. It gave us plenty to chat about the next time.
We are now planning a socially distant visit for me to sit in their garden and to chat face-to-face.
One more friend in my life
To know that Frank looks forward to my calls and feels he can chat to me easily and openly is hugely rewarding, I am just being me and devoting an hour a week of friendship. It is an hour when I sit down with a cuppa and chat freely to a charming gentleman.
I listen, I chat, I take an interest and I answer any questions. We have an agreed time frame, we don’t stick rigidly to the same hour on the same day each week, that way if something comes up, I am not disappointing him, but I always ensure I call.
We all lead busy lives but hopefully this pandemic has taught us all that we need to look after others in our own communities. As we emerge from this, we need to continue to remember the important values we have learnt. We are not so busy we can’t give up an hour of our time and that will be the most rewarding hour we will spend.
Not only are you making a huge difference to that person’s day; it leaves you with a sense of fulfilment and you have one more friend in your life.
A good friendship refreshes the soul.