Naomi & Eric’s story: ‘I can talk with him in a way that I cannot with family members.”
Our Volunteer Befriending Scheme is going from strength to strength providing weekly contact, comfort, and support for isolated elders – and a valuable volunteer role that supports local people’s wellbeing and sense of connection. This is thanks to the amazing volunteers donating their time and to The Mercers Company for funding the project.
One example of the enduring friendship and improving wellbeing arising from this project is the story of Eric and Naomi.
Naomi, 67, has lived in Newham over 25 years. She suffers with various health conditions including, osteoarthritis, degenerative joint disease, sporadic back pain, and depression. As a result, she lives with constant pain and poor mobility, both preventing her from regularly venturing out on her own.
Naomi was introduced to befriending when she was referred for advocacy support by her social prescriber. She was supported by Clem our Over 65s Advocate and Alex, a student on our social work placement, to apply for Attendance Allowance and Pension Credit. Around that time, Naomi was feeling extremely low. She had struggled during lockdown feeling lonely and socially isolated and was encouraged by Alex to consider our befriending service. Naomi agreed it would be nice to have someone to talk to and now looks forwards to his calls.
“He makes me laugh. It is nice to have someone outside the family to speak to,” says Naomi. “I have been through some difficult periods this year, the loss of my father, then my brother. Eric has offered me encouragement and helped me through it all. I feel we have developed a trust as I know he does not judge me.”
Eric came to the UK in 1965 from Jamaica. He is 72 years old and has lived in Newham for 20 years. An ex-admin worker, he retired in 2019 and has volunteered consistently for over 12 years. He became a BDCA befriending volunteer in April 2022 and said, ‘Giving my time to help others is something I enjoy doing.”
Eric makes weekly telephone calls to Naomi which lasts anywhere between 5 – 40 minutes. He has supported her through the loss of two family members and is understanding when her mood is low. His highlight is when she told him that she looks forward to his Wednesday calls.
“I feel like I am doing something worthwhile,” says Eric. “I am happy that I am making a difference.”
If you would like to become a volunteer befriender, please see the role description and application process here. If you know anyone who might benefit from having a befriender calling or meeting them weekly, please contact our Over 65s Advocate Clem on firstname.lastname@example.org