Befriending Service is recruiting new volunteers
A St Catherine’s Hospice service which provides a lifeline of comfort and support for those affected by a life-limiting illness is appealing for new volunteers so it can build on its valuable work.
The Family Support Team runs the Carers’ Befriending Service to give carers the opportunity to take a break from their role.
The service provides a trained volunteer to sit with a ‘cared for’ person for up to four hours each week offering company and a supportive ear, while the carer takes a well-earned rest or completes important tasks such as grocery shopping or visiting the doctor.
Now the team is recruiting new volunteers, with the aim that the service can be extended to reach people living alone with life-limiting illnesses, as well as those who have a carer. The aim is to reduce the isolation and loneliness people on their own may experience when living with such conditions.
Befriender Mitch Johnston has volunteered with the service since it launched in 2011.
He currently visits Bob Watson, who has kidney cancer, each week – offering companionship, whilst also giving Bob’s wife Cath the opportunity to do things such as visit the hairdressers or catch up with a friend.
Mitch, a retired prison officer, said: “Coping with a life-limiting illness can be very restrictive and also very stressful – the reality of what people are going through was really brought home to me when I started volunteering with the befriending service. It made me see how the concept was such a good one.
“For me to give a few hours a week to someone is not a big ask, but it means such a lot to them and can make a big difference, helping to relieve some of the pressure they find themselves under.
“I’ve been visiting Bob for some time now and have built up a strong relationship with him and his family. People put a lot of trust in you when they are in that situation – that in itself is rewarding.”
The Family Support Team at St Catherine’s aims to match people up according to interests and backgrounds – and Bob said this helped ‘break the ice’ at the start of their relationship.
Bob, a grandfather-of-14 and great-granddad of one, said: “I was a little apprehensive at first when the idea was first put forward – you wonder what it will be like and if you’ll find things to talk about. But I’d urge people not to be put off – it can do such a lot of good.
“Mitch and I clicked straight away – we’ve got a lot in common and it’s great to have someone to chew the fat over with. We talk about sports and what’s been going on in the news – it’s nice to have the company.”
The 68-year-old from Ashton-on-Ribble added: “It also means Cath can go out and have a bit of time to do the things she needs to do, without worrying about me and whether I am okay. It’s important that she gets a break away from the house, and it means she can have peace of mind while she does that.”
Cath praised the befriending service as ‘brilliant’ and added: “I’d recommend it to anyone. We’re really grateful to Mitch for giving his time each week and to St Catherine’s for organising it. I hope that more volunteers will be inspired to join so that more people can benefit.”
Cheryl Scott, Family Support Manager at St Catherine’s Hospice, encouraged anyone who feels they have the right experience and skills to join the service to get in touch and attend the next training course.
She said: “We are very keen to extend the befriending service so that people living alone who are affected by life-limiting illnesses can benefit from it too.
“We’d also like to reach out to more people in the local community who do not have direct dealings with the hospice, as well as more people living with conditions broader than cancer. To be able to do this we need the help of volunteers who are willing to give their precious time – it really does make a huge difference to the lives of those they are supporting.”
For more information about becoming a volunteer and the three-day training course – which takes place from March 19th to 21st – contact Nikki Dobson, Volunteer Co-ordinator on 01772 629171 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
St Catherine’s Hospice would like to thank Bob, Cath and Mitch for sharing their story, which we have produced here with their full permission.
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