In 2015, I applied to become a volunteer befriender with the project Help at Hand because I wanted to be someone an isolated older person could talk to, spend time with and help them get more involved with their community.
I am currently befriending Jessie, a 94 year old woman from Clackmannanshire who complained of feeling lonely and dreaded the thought of spending winter alone. I spend a lot of time with my own grandparents and the thought of them having no one to talk to is what spurred me on to want to help someone else who is feeling that way.
I was initially feeling very nervous about befriending, but I contacted Volunteering Matters anyway and was invited onto the training programme. I quickly realised that I needn’t have worried – everyone had the same concerns. We had some good discussions about how it worked and challenges we may face, such as not getting on with our match. After completing the training I was still feeling a little nervous about meeting Jessie and starting the project, but I was a lot more prepared for it.
As soon as I met Jessie, I just knew we were going to get on really well. I helped her to make and send out her Christmas cards, something that she wasn’t able to do on her own last year! We have gone for a walk in Alloa and round Sterling Mills, just spending time together and having a coffee. In fact, the staff in the coffee shop are beginning to recognise us! I have been researching various social groups for her to join in the New Year, so she will get the chance to meet new people. I’m also going to teach her how to get online and use technology.
Jessie has difficulty walking long distances and uses a stick. I always ensure that I am patient with her and try to make things easier by opening doors and parking the car close, so she doesn’t have to walk as far. She told me her confidence is gradually growing and she enjoys getting out of the house. She always thanks me and often says my visit is the highlight of her week.
Deciding to befriend was undoubtedly one of the best decisions I have ever made – we both get so much out of it. I look forward to spending time with her every week and we are always commenting on how much we have in common! Loneliness is something that can affect anyone at any time, and it is projects like this that are so important in helping to stop it. I would recommend befriending to anyone – even if they are feeling apprehensive like I was – as the benefits to the person you are matched with and yourself are endless.