Volunteers' Week 2020: Alison, a telephone befriender

Alison Hilken is a long-term supporter of Sue Ryder Duchess of Kent Hospice and has been volunteering at the hospice for the last 12 years. Due to the coronavirus pandemic she's unable to carry out her normal role supporting day therapy patients, so has become a telephone befriender.

Image of Sue Ryder volunteer, ALison, holding a telephone in her befriender role

“Sue Ryder Duchess of Kent Hospice has played such a fulfilling part of my life and I asked if I could be of any help during these difficult times by making contact with patients on a regular basis, just to let them know we are out there for them. 

"I am now a telephone befriender for a couple of ladies who normally attend day therapy at the hospice. The ladies are so pleased ,as they do miss their time in day therapy, and I am astounded at how upbeat they are."

"We talk about lots of different subjects; they both love their gardens and they are enjoying the glorious sunshine we have had during this coronavirus lockdown.

"For my part, I am missing all my fellow volunteers and the hospice staff. The volunteers have set up a WhatsApp Group so although we’re not together, we can message and make one another smile. I feel most privileged to have met so many very interesting patients."

"Speaking to Alison definitely lifts my mood"

It's not just Alison who has had her spirits lifted by the new telephone befriending; it's also of great benefit to the patients on the other end of the phone.

One of the patients that Alison befriends said: "I really look forward to Alison calling, she is very empathetic. I like to call her Queen Bee 2; she makes me smile, has an infectious personality and the name suits her as she is a glamorous lady who always has her nails done beautifully.

"Speaking to Alison definitely lifts my mood, it is wonderful that someone cares enough to ring me and has the capacity to enquire and to care. She really does care. They are so kind.”

Alison is a keen gardener and during lockdown she has been building and selling ornamental beehives to brighten up people's gardens. She also grows dahlias and peonies, which she hopes will produce a wonderful display of blooms this summer.

Thank you to all our volunteers

Taking place 1 - 7 June ever year, Volunteers' Week is a chance to celebrate and say thank you for the contribution millions of volunteers make across the UK, including the thousands who support Sue Ryder across our hospices, neurological centres, charity shops and in the local community.

Find out more about volunteering with Sue Ryder.