The pandemic and all of the accompanying rules and restrictions have had an enormous impact on all of us, but especially those who were already struggling with illness, disability, or any number of other life pressures. Prior to March 2020, befriending was one of the more popular volunteer roles that we helped to recruit to, but now, as we approach two years into the pandemic, it has become one of the most needed services – but with a shortage of volunteers to match that need.
So what is befriending? It can take a number of forms, from a regular telephone call to someone to check in on them, see if they need anything, to more frequent in-person visits, perhaps even going out with someone, whether to an appointment or to do something more fun.
One of the keywords around befriending in fact is exactly that – fun. A person who engages with a befriending service might have some significant challenges, but just like an organic friendship, befrienders will normally enjoy their role, often because of the immediate satisfaction of seeing someone’s life improve because of their intervention. Turning up at someone’s door and seeing their smile and knowing right away how valuable that contact is, is incredibly empowering, for both the volunteer and service user.
Befriending has an advantage that a lot of other volunteer roles don’t always have, which is extreme flexibility. Many people who need a befriender are happy to organise calls and visits at any time during the week, meaning that it is one of the few roles that are open even to people in full-time work or education.
Right now, Lancaster has a number of organisations offering befriending services to those in need, but I am going to focus on one in particular – Lancashire Volunteer Partnership. Currently, they have a waiting list, and not enough volunteers to support those in need. Would you like to help? Or perhaps you’re interested in finding out more? You don’t need to commit, you could just get in touch to find out a bit more. If you would like to make a real positive difference to someone in need and have a great time doing it, contact Mark, our Connecting Communities Development Officer at [email protected]