A volunteer’s experience of befriending
I have long wanted to get involved with a charity that supported my local community, but the nature of my previous role meant that I had to regularly stay away from home, making committing time difficult. When I moved into the Branch Concept Team in October, my evenings became free again and I decided to enquire about volunteering at Bramley Elderly Action. BEA is a West Leeds based charity whose mission is to provide support, motivation and opportunities for older people and to promote the value of older people in the local community. BEA provide a wide range of services across the community from day trips and drop in centres to social support groups and befriending.
As someone who loves to talk and meet people, befriending seemed like the natural choice of role for me. After a short interview I was paired with an extremely interesting lady who lives a few miles from my house. Sadly, the lady I visit suffers from Alzheimer’s which means that she often has difficulty with her memory and is easily confused. This has caused a variety of problems in the past from forgetting to take medicine and even forgetting to eat. Carers visit twice a day and take care of the day to day and medical necessities and family also visit a couple of times a week. My role is to simply act as a friend, breaking up the week by visiting for about 60-90 minutes. My normal visit usually consists of making a couple of cups of coffee and talking about art and crafts, family or the war. I also try and take books or old pieces of art work from my time at university so that I can vary the topics of conversation and keep things fresh.
One of the most rewarding visits for me personally happened just a couple of months ago, when after hearing quite a sad story about how my friend felt that she was forgetting who she really was, I decided to help by getting her long time broken stereo fixed and put a Miles Davies CD on that she had talked to me about previously. The minute the music started to play, a massive smile spread across her face and she thanked me, saying that hearing the music had helped her remember who she was. Even though visits are often challenging and sometimes frustrating little moments like that make it completely worth while.
Published in the volunteer’s company journal, April 2014