JUDITH, VOLUNTEER BEFRIENDER FOR ENRYCH

Judith signed up to volunteer in response to the COVID-19 crisis. She was matched as a telephone befriender for Enrych, a charity which supports adults with disabilities to enjoy the most active and independent lives possible.

Three months on, Judith is still befriending but now face-to-face as she explains:

What led you to volunteer? I signed up as a volunteer during lockdown as I wanted to ‘do my bit’ even though I was still working full-time. When the Volunteer Matching Service approached me about becoming a befriender for Enrych, I felt this was a valuable thing to do. I couldn’t bear the thought of people being entirely by themselves with no-one to talk to during lockdown. I already knew of the work that Enrych does, so I said yes straight away.

How does befriending work? I spoke with Victoria Eele at Enrych who sorted out a ‘buddy’ for me to befriend. To start with, because of lockdown, I got to know my buddy over the phone, but once restrictions started to ease we decided it would be good to get together face-to face. One of the staff members at Enrych arranged the first meeting and now we meet up once a week for about an hour, typically in one of Aylesbury’s pubs. I like the flexibility that this role offers – we sort out a mutually convenient slot each week and either of us could reschedule if we had to.

What did you gain personally from volunteering? It is really interesting learning of other people’s life experiences. My buddy has travelled around the world and I love hearing about places in Africa that he has visited. We also discovered that we both like gardening and so have started swapping gardening tips.

What difference does befriending make to others? It is an opportunity for them to get to know someone else and reduce any sense of isolation, particularly if (like my buddy) joining a club or society isn’t something that they can or want to do.

Would you recommend volunteering and if so why? Definitely. I would particularly recommend it to young people – not just because they’ll get the benefits of the volunteering itself but it also shows potential employers that they have taken on responsibilities and widened their awareness.

Will you carry on volunteering? Oh yes – I’m very happy to carry on. An unexpected bonus for me is that it makes me leave the office on time when I have a befriending slot to get to.

 For more information about Enrych, see their website here.

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Image courtesy of St Francis's Children Society