Monthly Archives: July 2019

I’ve been a Befriender for six months now and the time has flown by. Visiting an isolated older person in their home is rewarding and positive. Here are five things I’ve learnt from the Befriending experience.

1. Volunteering helps volunteers, too!

It’s not just the people you’re supporting who benefit from you giving your free time. It’s hugely rewarding for you, too. Benefits include a sense of fulfilment, uplifted spirits and a way of meeting new people. It can really boost your confidence to know that you are helping someone and doing that little bit to improve their life. Every time I visit my client, I feel the positive impact of having brightened up someone else’s day. It’s been scientifically proven that doing good deeds can help with our mood, too. Not to mention getting to know other volunteers at our monthly meetings – they are a lovely bunch and have a wealth of experience to share.

2. New skills

I’ve attended several training sessions during my time here so far, on subjects as wide-ranging as confidentiality and fire safety. I have even honed my skills in website design, having rebuilt this very site on a voluntary basis. Volunteering for a small charity means there could be more opportunities to get involved and use or develop your skills. It’s always worth asking.

3. Greater awareness of the past

It’s the little things we take for granted, like being able to run the washing machine and looking everything up on the Internet, or buying off-the-rack clothes – the older generation can bring to life what it was like before all these conveniences! In our Sharing Stories project, we loved hearing about everyday life and learning about the fascinating lives our clients have led. We’ll be updating you on this wonderful project soon, so watch this space.

4. An insight into how other people think

Befriending often brings together two people who might never have met under normal circumstances. This makes it a lovely opportunity to get to know other views on life and understand other people better. Always a great asset in any social situation.

5. It’s the simple things that make a difference

Visiting someone once every fortnight might not seem like much – but that regular, reliable contact, that talk shared over a hot cup of tea, could make all the difference to them. According to the Health Foundation, “one in three older people in the UK live alone”. This is true for many of our clients. Sometimes they might not have seen anyone for several days, so being able to chat with you really can make their day.

These are some of my own experiences as a Befriender, but I’d love to hear yours – what’s your most memorable moment? What have you learnt?

Remember not to use any names to keep peoples’ identities private.

If you’re ready to apply for a Befriender role, click here.

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The words ‘isolation’ and ‘loneliness’ are often used interchangeably, but there is more to it than you might think.

Loneliness is when someone considers the number and quality of their social interactions as unacceptable. Loneliness isn’t simply being alone or isolated, as many people enjoy this at times, but is the feeling of wanting more, socially. Some people can have many healthy relationships yet still feel lonely.

We consider isolation to be a situation where someone has difficulty in getting out of the house and fulfilling their social and other needs. This could be due to mobility problems, lack of transport access, an isolated location or a combination of all of these and more.

Loneliness is a feeling, while isolation is an objective situation.

How does isolation affect people?

Most of us will feel isolated at different points in our lives, and it can have a knock-on effect on our mental and physical health. We are social beings, so living in isolation can leave us with feelings of anxiety and sadness, or even depression.

Isolation can prevent us getting to the health services we need, or create a barrier to seeing friends and relatives. This can be due to a loss of confidence, and the longer we are isolated, the more daunting it can be to overcome those barriers.

Many of our clients have been used to an active social life, independently getting themselves where they need to go and not asking for anyone’s help. Surgery, ill health or the loss of their partner can leave them vulnerable and struggling to maintain social links, at a time when they need it most. It is often when people experience major life changes that they are referred to us. We help people to adapt to these changes and move confidently into the future.

How can I help isolated older people?

You can tactfully check in on them, signpost them to services that could help, and listen to their thoughts and feelings. This can be enough to lift someone out of their isolation and bring the outside world in.

We all want to be listened to and heard, and that is why our Befriending work is so important to our clients.

Our volunteer Befrienders love what they do. They listen without judgement, building trust over time through regular contact.

A friendly face and a kind word, shared stories and bursts of laughter – these are the moments that enhance peoples’ lives, and we are here to help create them.

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We are delighted to be part of West Norfolk Wins, a fantastic initiative for supporting your chosen local charity while being in with a 1 in 50 chance of winning a prize!

Tickets cost £1 per week, and 50% of proceeds bought from our link go straight to West Norfolk Befriending, which we put straight back into keeping our service going for more clients.

Find out more and buy tickets here. Thank you so much for your support!

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Clients and Befrienders enjoying afternoon tea together

On 16 April 2019, Dobbies in King’s Lynn hosted West Norfolk Befriending’s Easter Afternoon Tea event which saw 52 clients, volunteers and staff come together. Tea, cakes, and finger sandwiches on tiered stands were enjoyed over relaxed conversation and laughter, with the beginnings of new friendships and old friends reuniting again. Sharing food is a wonderful way to break the ice and get to know one other, and this is something we encourages at our monthly get-together at Sandringham Café and Restaurant, too.

Many of the charity’s clients have difficulty getting around but with help from volunteers and staff who arranged taxis and offered lifts, everyone got to Dobbies safely. It was lovely to see so many people enjoying good company and meeting others from the community. With an average age of 90, the ladies and gentlemen who came together on the day had many interesting stories to tell. One lady, aged 95, explained how yoga and keeping active have helped her stay healthy, and she is certainly a testament to this. There were many conversations of how much the clients were enjoying the afternoon and looking forward to future events, and it was an especially valuable social opportunity for those who struggle to leave their homes. We always look forward to our events and the chance to spend more time getting to know our clients.

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On 9 April 2019, our volunteers were invited to fire safety training at North Lynn Fire and Rescue Station.

Fire safety is so important – it saves lives and this is especially crucial when working with older and potentially vulnerable people. We learnt many valuable tips on preventing fires and keeping everyone safe, followed by the opportunity to ask questions. The key message of the training was: get out as quickly and as safely as possible, and call the fire brigade. Don’t try to tackle the fire yourself. Just a few breaths of smoke are enough to cause someone to pass out, and that’s the last thing you want in an emergency.

If you know someone vulnerable and are concerned about the fire safety in their home, talk to them and see if they’d be happy to have someone from the fire service visit them for a fire safety assessment. Depending on the circumstances, the Community Safety Volunteer can install free smoke alarms to protect against the dangers of fire. Prevention is better than cure, but having an early warning is vital too.

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