Stella joined Sue Ryder as a befriending volunteer in South Oxfordshire in 2018. Like many volunteers across the UK, this year she had to pause her volunteering role temporarily to limit the spread of coronavirus. Here, she reflects on her favourite memories from her time as a befriender and shares how she's continued to support her local community during the pandemic.
A good thing to do
“I got involved with Sue Ryder soon after my husband died when I saw an advert for befrienders on Facebook. It just seemed like a good thing to do.
“My role as a befriender is interesting and varied. Normally, I meet with local patients every Tuesday morning to chat, get drinks and biscuits or go outside for a walk. Over time we build up a relationship and get to know each other well.
“Befrienders can be important for patients for a multitude of reasons, from giving them a regular friendly face to helping with admin and tasks. In turn, we get to spend time with interesting people who are good to be with.”
Fish and chips, car trips and photo albums
“I’ve been paired with multiple patients during my time as a befriender and carried out a range of different tasks to support them, from taking one lady out for fish and chips to organising trips in the car for another patient who was on oxygen.
“This lady needed company so her husband could have a little free time for himself. As well as taking her for short journeys, I also helped her to get the book that she was writing sorted out on the computer. The book, which is largely autobiographical, is due to be printed next month. Although now sadly she has passed away, I still see her husband and daughter for occasional walks and pub meals as he adjusts to no longer being a full-time carer.
“Another couple needed help de-cluttering, as they wanted to move house. I collected bags to take to local charity shops and helped remove photos from the walls to put in photo albums for them, making them easier to transport. Although they are now happily settled in their new home, I still sometimes help them out by taking bags to the charity shop for them.”
Supporting people through the pandemic
“During the pandemic, Covid-19 restrictions meant that I was no longer able to visit patients due to the risk of infection. I was determined to keep busy and found that there was still plenty to do in my local area. There were two elderly ladies in the village who needed driving to the doctor and their prescriptions collected. I was also able to add items to my food orders to help other people in the local area.
“I am a member of an active Women's Institute, and we tried to include everyone in our Zoom meetings, even if they had to join on the landline! It helped us all to keep connected and work out where we could be most useful to help the vulnerable around us.
“As the coronavirus situation begins to ease, I look forward to returning to my previous role and to seeing patients again soon.”
Welcoming back our volunteers
With restrictions now beginning to lift and volunteers returning to their roles across our hospices, neurological care centres and out in the community, we can’t wait to welcome back all our healthcare and fundraising volunteers.
We are hugely grateful to our volunteers for their continued commitment during such a difficult time – we couldn’t provide our expert care without their support.
Can you help be there as a befriender?
If you are inspired by Stella’s story and interested in helping others as a befriender, get in touch with our Volunteering Team for more information by emailing email@example.com