Supporting the whole person with Volunteer Befrienders

Our Volunteer Befrienders have been working with departments across Gateway to offer additional support. One of the areas where we’ve found they can be particularly helpful is our Health Trainer service.

The Health Trainer service isn’t just about weight management; Health Trainers help people to make changes that will impact their whole life. These changes probably will include healthy eating and exercise, but attached to that is a more emotional, psychological element. Health Trainer clients often need a bit of help building their confidence and self esteem, and this is where a Volunteer Befriender can be really useful.

Nosheen’s story

Nosheen* was referred to the Health Trainer service by her GP. She had some long term health conditions, including arthritis, that meant she wasn’t doing much physical activity. Her initial statement on the Impact Assessment App said:

I need some support in getting out to do more walking on a regular basis. Sometimes I find it very difficult to go out without support just to the shops.

She was placed with Susan (pictured), a Health Trainer, about a year ago.

Health-Trainer-SusanSusan says, “We discussed the usual things – changing her diet and so on – but after a while Nosheen started opening up to me a bit more. She has history of depression and anxiety and, although she was already seeing a professional about these issues, one of the main reasons she wasn’t doing much physical activity was because she was finding it difficult to leave the house.

“As a Health Trainer I was able to give her help with her general health issues – to set goals and put together a plan for a healthier lifestyle – but unfortunately I couldn’t be there day-to-day for her. Noshi really needed someone to call on. So I decided to ask our EAST team if we could find her a buddy who could be there for her a bit more often.”

Finding Aiysha

Susan worked with the Volunteer Befrienders co-ordinator to find someone who could be a “buddy” for Nosheen and between them they chose Aiysha.

Susan says, “Aiysha was looking for some work experience in Health and Social Care, and Nosheen has a daughter about the same age as Aiysha, so it looked like it could be a good fit.”

Aiysha says, “When I first met Noshi she couldn’t go out – she was quite isolated. So I encouraged her to come to the shops with me once a week. From there we built it up bit by bit. We went for walks in the park, or up to the market to buy fruit and veg. We’ve been to the library where I showed her how to use the internet. We went to fitness classes together and then we’d go off to the shops. It does seem to have helped her.

“Nosheen talks about all sorts of things because she says she trusts me, which is really nice. She says that she can go out more now, and that it’s down to me.”

Positive outcomes all round

Aiysha became a befriender because she wanted to gain some additional work experience for her social care and health studies course.

She said, “I love helping people and this type of work experience is ideal for me. I want to go into social work eventually – I want to get a career helping people.” She’s also received full training for the befriender role, a nationally recognised Employability qualification and a job reference from Gateway.

Being a befriender has been good for Aiysha’s confidence too. “I’m quite a shy person and I didn’t expect I’d be able to just go and meet someone I didn’t know at their house. But I did it and I’ve started doing a lot more now, too. I’m not as quiet as I used to be and I’ve become more confident about doing things for myself.”

Nosheen’s more recent feedback is a lot more positive than her first statement.

On Aiysha’s feedback form, she said:

Aiysha is polite, caring and thoughtful. She takes care of me when we go out, makes sure we go on the right bus. She helps me understand certain things. When we go to fitness classes, I inform her that I need to go shopping to get a certain thing and she reminds me of the list that I told her I need. Aiysha motivates me to go out more.

In her most recent statement on the Impact Assessment App, she says:

Having Aiysha really helps me a lot and I have started going to a local club to do a bit of exercise. I know that when she coming over it helps motivate me to go out so I have started to go out more.

“Between us, I feel we’ve really helped Nosheen with her independence,” says Susan. “She’s so much more confident and she’s going to the gym three or four times a week now – on her own! The change is incredible – she’s gone way beyond the goals that we originally set.

The Health Trainers are there to address mental, as well as physical, health and wellbeing, but being available to clients on a more social level just isn’t possible. So having the Volunteer Befrienders available means we are able to fill a bit of a gap.

“Having this kind of additional help available to us is really useful,” she says. “Being able to offer a buddy means we can give the client the best possible all-round support.”

If you would like more information, call Gateway on 0121 456 7820 and say that you’d like to find out more about becoming a Volunteer Befriender.

*Some names have been changed.

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