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.