What does befriending mean to you?
Our befriending service Community Companions offers weekly one-to-one support to people experiencing loneliness or social isolation by pairing them with one of our volunteer befrienders.
To celebrate Befriending Week, staff, volunteers and clients share how they became involved with or sought support from the service, and what befriending means to them.
“I’ve received befriending support for the last year. I reached out for support after my GP gave me information about Mind in Bradford and its services.
“Befriending has helped me understand different cultures and different views. I felt lonely before even though I had people around me, like my wife and kids, but I needed a friend which I got in my befriender.
Now I feel valued and understood – the people at Mind in Bradford care for me.
“Before I was very vulnerable, but when I met my befriender it was a distraction to other things that could harm me.”
“I have been volunteering for seven months now. I wanted to be a part of the team for this important charity that focuses on mental health and wellbeing, and, for a psychology graduate like myself, it’s been a valuable experience.
The thing I enjoy most about volunteering is talking with clients – making them feel valued, cared for and understood is my reward.
“Community Companions is an important service that enables me to use counselling skills and psychological approaches to improve clients’ mental wellbeing.”
“I’ve had befriending support for a year. I reached out for support after my daughter passed away. I went to my GP for help and they referred me.
Befriending has really lifted me up.
“I can’t praise my befriender enough – it means a lot, having someone to talk to and listen.”
“I’m a Project Administrator for Community Companions. I began as a befriending volunteer at the start of the pandemic and was later asked about working as a temp on the project (which came about due to the pandemic). The thought of helping people that were lonely and isolated in their homes by matching them with a friendly volunteer was really rewarding, especially at a time when it was truly challenging for all.
I just wanted to help those who felt alone feel less alone and reach as many people as possible.
“It’s really rewarding when we get feedback from a good match and when people decide they want to stay in touch when the match ends. This can lead to lifelong fulfilling friendships. I also enjoy interviewing volunteers and realising how many people out there want to give their time in the pursuit of supporting others.
“To me, befriending means having an understanding and non-judgemental person to talk to and see in the community. It means supporting someone to do something they may not at first have thought possible. It means giving someone the confidence to interact with people and the world again. However big or small a step they take, befriending for many means progress.”
“I started volunteering with Mind in Bradford in April 2022. I wanted to volunteer as a befriender as I know the value of having someone to talk to. This can make such a difference to someone who could be feeling isolated because of their mental health. It’s important to break the stigma of mental health and people feeling they need to hide away, as talking to someone or just knowing someone is there can help so much.
“On our first call, my befriendee and I discovered we had quite a few things in common – we liked the same sports and just got on from the get-go, we do get on very well which is really nice. I think I’ve learnt a lot from the person I’m matched with, and I think hearing their story has made me look at certain things in a different way as well. I know what it is like to be alone and I can understand the value of having someone telephone or arranging to meet up for a coffee.
Some people may not get to see or speak to many people or even anyone at all for days at a time, so for them to know someone will be contacting them, wanting to talk to and meet up with them can make a huge difference.
“For them to know someone has an interest in them for no other reason than friendship, for them to talk to, or for them to just listen to someone else talk for an hour or so a week can help that person’s confidence, self-belief and just all-round wellbeing.”
“I’m a Project Administrator for Community Companions. Mind in Bradford is a vital organisation that offers and does so much for the community of Bradford. I wanted to work here to support this wonderful service and bring my personal experience of my own mental health to support others.
“Before joining as staff, I was a volunteer befriender.
I really enjoyed getting to know someone who you may not usually meet, and learning about their life, hobbies and experiences.
“Speaking to someone on a regular basis not only supports their life but also your own. For me, befriending represents regular connection to someone, which I think is one of the important types of support someone can receive – knowing that someone is there to listen and be there.”
Interested in volunteering for Community Companions?
Are you feeling isolated, lonely or alone? If you live in the Bradford District or Craven and are aged 18+, you can access our befriending support.
This feature is taken from the latest edition of our newsletter, Write Mind! Pick up a copy from our office or read online.
Posted on: 2nd November 2022