National Volunteers Week runs from 1-7th June every year and is an opportunity to say thank you for all the generosity experienced across the UK. For those who choose to volunteer, it’s a chance to connect with new people and occasionally gain an insight into a sector otherwise not experienced.
As an award-winning, Bristol based charity, Brunelcare provide high quality housing, care and support for older people in the South West. They support people to remain as independent as possible, for as long as possible with care provided in people’s own homes, in specialist care homes, a reablement facility and through day centres.
During the pandemic, Brunelcare introduced a telephone befriending initiative, affectionately known as ‘Friends on the Phone’ and they told us how throughout this period, ‘this scheme has provided some much-needed support, companionship and a good number of laughs.’
They’ve matched 58 relationships so far and are still receiving new requests for the service.
We spoke to Liz Ehlers, Volunteer Co-ordinator to find out more:
Has the success of the scheme surprised you?
‘Not really as this was a service I was piloting before the pandemic began. However, the pandemic came so we had to supercharge the implementation of Friends on the Phone. The response from so many kind people offering to volunteer was amazing and we are so pleased to have matched everybody who requested the service.’
What does having telephone befrienders mean to Brunelcare and the people it cares for?
‘Our beneficiaries are all so grateful for the service and are definitely benefitting from experiencing a bright new chat each week which takes them away from the mundaneness and loneliness they may be feeling. They have found that regular chats with their volunteer befriender has had a really positive impact on their wellbeing.’
‘We’re so grateful to all our volunteers for their time, compassion and enthusiasm. They truly make a positive difference to the people we care for’.
Liz told us how we’ve supported them for many years with corporate volunteering days, as well as sharing days out, making their gardens more beautiful, and even carol singing at the end of the year.
Now coming up to the one-year anniversary of volunteering for the telephone befriending initiative, our Bristol based colleague Howie Palmer, told us what it’s been like for him and Michael, his befriendee at Brunelcare. We caught up with him to get his thoughts:
Why did you volunteer Howie?
‘I was forwarded an email In March last year from one of my colleagues in another section of the bank. It said that Brunelcare are looking for people to spend a little time on the phone with their residents who in many cases can be lonely and live a secluded life. Because of the pandemic, the residents would have been even more isolated.’
‘As all of my plans had to be shelved, I had extra time on my hands which I wanted to put to good use, so thought why not give my time up to someone else who can benefit. I’m fortunate that my mum is in a position where she has family around her all the time and I thought ‘what if she didn’t - what would it feel like for her?’ Based on all of this, getting involved as a telephone befriender was a no brainer.’
What benefits does volunteering bring you?
‘Making a difference to someone’s life. The satisfaction I get from hearing someone laughing on the phone, listening to their stories of life and the overall general knowledge they share is amazing. I always come off my calls learning something new. I have my calls mid-afternoon on a Friday and it’s in my work diary as a recurring meeting, so I ensure I don’t miss any. The calls are uplifting and ensures that I have a good end to the working week. Even on my days off, I still make sure that Michael and I have a chat.’
What benefits do you see for Michael, your telephone befriendee?
‘Conversation, company, laughs and a blossoming friendship. He even said that I’m like a member of his family!’
Michael told us he didn’t know what to expect from the phone befriending:
‘I’m the type of person who doesn’t like to anticipate what would happen and I’m very happy the way it’s turned out.’
‘Phone befriending is great as people may not see the need for volunteering, but I’ve found it really useful. It’s always good to be talking to someone, being in touch regularly and having a range of conversations which keeps me active.’
Michael also said he’s looking forward to meeting up with Howie in person later on in the year when things settle down.
Are you next?
Many of us have considered volunteering but not all of us take the next step of committing to it. Make today the day you change that habit and find a way to support people in your community. How can you make a difference?
To learn more about the fantastic work they’re doing at Brunelcare, take a look at their website.Find out more