My name’s Stevie and I am a Befriending Officer at b:Friend. I have been with the charity for around two months now – although so much has happened it feels like it’s been two years!
My main focus is our 1:1 befriending project, where we pair up older neighbours across Doncaster with volunteer befrienders. This means meeting new people on a regular basis, some who I have only spoken to briefly over the phone and sometimes (like it can be for our volunteers) it can be quite a nerve wracking experience!
There are many important elements that I need to take into consideration when I am pairing older neighbours with befrienders.
Initially the pairing is based on locality. Quite often we see a bit of an imbalance, for example, an abundance of befrienders in one area while there is a lack of older neighbours referred into us. So when we are able to find someone in the same area it’s really exciting – we can crack on with moving one more person away from social isolation.
Once we find a potential pairing I will take the befriender to the older neighbour’s house for an initial accompanied visit. This can sometimes be quite a nervous meeting for both sides so it’s always good to start the conversation with a topic that everyone can relate to, I normally go with the local area.
Then it’s about finding commonalities between both people and building up what we hope will be a lasting friendship. I’ll keep in touch with each pairing to ensure that everyone is enjoying and benefitting from the experience.
It’s important for them both to know that sometimes friendships can take a while to build. However it’s most important to reiterate how significant their participation is in the project. Some of our older neighbours see nobody throughout the week, and similarly some of our befrienders may wish to increase their local social circle.
I hope to keep making many successful pairings through b:friend and am so grateful to the people who take an hour out of their weeks to improve a complete stranger’s life.