Can you spare a couple of hours every week or fortnight to spend with someone who is lonely or socially isolated? Organisations in Reading are currently looking for volunteer befrienders who could make a real difference to the lives of the people they support.
Befriending might mean visiting an older person who lives nearby, for a cup of tea and a chat, or it might mean supporting someone with physical or learning disabilities to pursue an interest or hobby. It can mean providing a link to the outside world for someone with Alzheimer’s, or being a good listener for someone who is thought to be in the last year of their life.
Befriending brings many benefits for volunteers as well as befriendees – it offers the chance to connect with your community and learn new things. To anyone thinking of becoming a befriender, Fiona, a volunteer for the Alzheimer’s Society, says:
“Give it a go – it’s a really satisfying thing to do, it’s enjoyable and you make some new friends. The ladies I see, I look forward to seeing them … it’s just a really nice way to spend time.”
Each befriending service will have their own definition of a befriender’s role but, in general, befrienders provide one-to-one companionship and conversation. They might make weekly home visits or phone calls to chat and listen. Or they might support their befriendee to carry out everyday activities such as walks, shopping, trips to a café, garden centre, lunch club or a creative class.
Befrienders don’t provide personal care such as lifting, giving medication or collecting pensions. Befriending complements support from other services and is not a substitute for home care or other ongoing support. Befrienders can, however, let their volunteer coordinator or other agencies know if they identify practical or health support needs through talking to their befriendee.
You don’t usually need any special qualifications or experience to be a befriender. Befriending is a good opportunity for people who are:
- warm, friendly and empathic
- patient and good at listening
- reliable and able to make a regular commitment
Organisations match befrienders with befriendees who have shared interests, values, likes and dislikes.