“I don’t know what I would have done without you…” – the importance of befrienders

paper-chain-peoplePLEASE NOTE we no longer run a befrienders service. This blog post was published in September 2015.

We love to hear from the people we’ve worked with, especially when it’s to tell us how they are benefiting from our services. This week, our EAST Co-ordinator Sarah, who looks after our volunteers, received an email from one of her clients – someone she had paired with a Volunteer Befriender – that we want to share with you.

Our Volunteer Befrienders service, funded through Big Lottery Reaching Communities Fund, has been running for three years now. The concept is very simple: we pair up people who need some extra support with volunteers who want to help. In the last financial year (April 2014 – March 2015) our wonderful volunteer befrienders supported 238 clients for a total of 417 hours.

One of those clients was Tullia, who was paired with a volunteer befriender called Alex, and Tullia’s kindly given us permission to reproduce her email here:

Good morning Sarah,

Just a few words to thank Gateway Family Services for helping me in a difficult time of my life.

I came to live in Birmingham in January, forced by circumstances and health issues: my retirement age has been postponed by six years courtesy of the government, I found myself at the age of 60 in a unknown city, looking for a job, my husband needing both hips replaced.

Luckily you and Alex came to my rescue.

Alex has been very supportive and has helped me to gain more confidence with using a computer.

More important has been her cheerful presence once a week that galvanizes me into trying to be more positive and fight back this depression that has engulfed us after two very difficult years.

Alex is always smiling and very positive, and helps me at a time when I find myself unable to cope with everyday life.

Quite frankly I don’t know what I would have done without you guys.

Thank you.

Kind regards from Tullia

We asked Alex if she’d mind telling us a bit more about her work with Gateway, and in particular with Tullia. Alex said:

I came to Gateway not knowing how rewarding of an experience volunteering as a Befriender would be. In only six short months, Gateway has already given me so much, from training, to boosting my confidence, and the opportunity to face new experiences and challenges.

I have learned a lot, and I have felt appreciated as a volunteer. I have been given amazing support by Sarah, despite the thousand questions I ask her on a weekly basis (thank you Sarah!). And the on-call team has always made me feel safe and looked after while loneworking.

Tullia was my first client through Gateway, and I could not have asked for a better start. She has shown amazing strength, and continues to impress me with her willingness and determination to move forward. I don’t think she is aware of how much I’m learning from her.

I am humbled by my clients entrusting me with their obstacles, and allowing me to assist and support in overcoming them.

I would like to say a big thank you to Gateway and my clients.

Sarah says, “this is a great example of the work that all our Volunteer Befrienders do. The support is practical and emotional and, as Alex has shown, it’s often a two-way thing, with both parties getting a lot out of the relationship. We’d like to say a big thank you to all of our brilliant volunteers who’ve made the project such a success over the last three years.”

The Volunteer Befrienders programme in its current form is coming to an end, but we recognise how beneficial this model of service has been for everyone involved. So we will be continuing to take on Befrienders – training up volunteers and pairing them with people who need support – as part of our new work with My Healthcare, supporting people who have been referred by their GP. If you’d like to become a volunteer and offer emotional and social support to someone in your community, get in touch to find out more.

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