Befriender stories

Dot, volunteer befriender

Dot and Share student Doris meet weekly to go for walks, chat, visit a café or grab a drink and some food at the local pub.

Doris is quite the talker and loves to spend time with Dot chatting about her interests, what she’s been doing at Share, and sharing her family stories. Doris says, ‘I have a lovely time, going out is wonderful. I really like Dot, she is very nice.’

And Dot says, ‘I like working with Doris because she's funny and I like hearing about her life…it's very rewarding when she says she's had a lovely time.’

Doris out with Dot, in a local cafe

We launched our befriending project during the pandemic to help relieve the isolation people experienced during lockdown. We carefully match befrienders to those with similar interests, to offer support and friendship. Befriending helps our students feel less lonely, and  encourages communication, helping them improve their social skills and self-confidence. It also motivates people to get more exercise by getting out in the fresh air.

Volunteers are vital to Share. Without them, our befriending project simply wouldn't run. We rely on people like Dot, who are willing to give up their free time to support our students to live more independently, and do the things they want to do in their spare time.

And there are many benefits of volunteering, giving people purpose, improving wellbeing, and helping them gain valuable practical and soft skills.

Dot said, ‘I like volunteering because it's fun and rewarding. My favourite thing is feeling like I'm making a positive difference to someone else's life, it's very rewarding.

‘Since starting to volunteer with Share I've learned about different types of learning disabilities - it's not something I've ever been educated on before. I've learnt that I can do something new and going outside my comfort zone is ok!’

Alex, volunteer befriender

Alex has volunteered with us on and off for the last few years. In December 2020 he started supporting our new befriending project. As a volunteer befriender, Alex meets up weekly with Edmond, to chat, build social connections, and have fun together. They’ve built up a really lovely community friendship. At their first meeting, Edmond set a goal to go to the pub or clubbing after lockdown. As soon as the pubs opened, off they went! Edmond said, ‘It’s going well, I’m enjoying my time with Alex and we might go to the pub again next week for another cheeky half pint!’

Over lockdown, we saw the impact that prolonged periods of isolation have had on those who are vulnerable within our community and how facilitating like-minded people to connect and get out can be really positive. We try to offer a space in the community for people to feel more socially connected, make positive choices, build healthy relationships, work towards goals, and become healthier and more independent.

Alex and our other befrienders encourage communication by chatting about shared interests with people, helping to boost their mental health, general outlook and confidence. 

We asked Alex, why do you like volunteering at Share? 

‘I’ve always thought that Share as an organisation provides great services to all involved, which is obvious in how the students act when there. There is also lots of support for volunteers, well organised and is always made enjoyable by the staff.’

What’s your favourite thing about befriending?

‘I enjoy being able to spend time consistently with Edmond, getting to know him. Getting to do activities together that we don’t normally do is always fun. We’ve got to do lots of nice walks around his area together and visited his local pub.’

Why did you want to get involved in the befriending project?

‘I had stopped volunteering with Share during the pandemic in 2020 and this stood out as a nice way to get back involved. Being a befriender was a way to volunteer consistently, getting to know my befriendee more.’

What have you learnt?

‘Through the training provided from Share I’ve received a greater awareness of different disabilities and learning difficulties.’

Find out more about becoming a befriender

Rory, volunteer befriender

Rory has just started volunteering with as a befriender on our new befriending project. He meets up weekly with one of our members - Michael, to chat and cycle around Michael’s local park. Over lockdown, Michael regularly met with our outreach worker Louis to cycle around Battersea park. As our lockdown outreach project came to a close, Michael wanted to continue the visits so we matched him with Rory who also loves to cycle. Together they’ve been getting on their bikes once a week, come rain or shine.

Michael said, ‘I like cycling around Battersea Park, it's nice. I like looking at the swans and cygnets. I would like to start a Share Football Team!’

Over lockdown, we saw the impact that prolonged periods of isolation have had on those who are vulnerable within our community and how facilitating like-minded people to connect and get out can be really positive. We try to offer a space in the community for people to feel more socially connected, make positive choices, build healthy relationships, work towards goals, and become healthier and more independent.

Rory and our other befrienders support members to maintain positive mental health and encourage communication on meaningful topics or shared interests, helping promote positive outlooks and raised confidence.

We caught up with Rory:

Why do you like volunteering at Share?

‘I like volunteering at Share as I have had the opportunity to meet lots of great people who I may not have met in my normal circles. Being part of the Share community has allowed me to change and improve my usual daily routine, as well as simply giving me a great reason to get out of the house during these testing times!’

What’s your favourite thing about being a volunteer befriender?

‘My favourite thing about being a befriender is being able to positively impact on someone's life. It only takes me a couple of hours a week and is completely worth it as I'm able to spend time with Michael doing something he might not normally do, last week we rode our bikes around the park, which was a treat for both of us - certainly a welcome break from work for me!’

What have you learnt from volunteering?

‘I wanted to get involved in the project as I wanted to give back to the community. I've learnt a lot about adults with learning disabilities and befriending, and look forward to learning Makaton and first aid in the future. One of the best surprises for me with befriending is just how supportive my work have been. I work for a financial services company and expected it to be a little trickier to get the time to volunteer, but my boss and the company have been hugely helpful in allowing me to take the time to do it. I'd urge anyone who is unsure about whether they can fit befriending around work to simply ask if it's possible, you might be surprised!’

Get involved as a befriender

Angela and Lucy, Share & Trinity Hospice charity shop

As well as attending Share, Angela volunteers once a week at a local Trinity Hospice Charity Shop on Clapham High Street.

She’s been volunteering at the shop for several years and loves it. Sadly, due to the pandemic, the shop had to shut in line with government guidelines and Angela really missed her time there. To help her back to the shop after lockdown Share matched Angela with a volunteer befriender called Lucy.

Lucy meets Angela at Share every week before they wander down together to the charity shop. Whilst there Lucy offers Angela a bit of company and a helping hand. Before resuming her volunteering role Angela said, ‘I’m looking forward to going back to normal, it’s been a long time in lockdown and I heard the shop has reopened and I want to return.’

We caught up with Angela after her first day back:

What do you do when you get to the shop?  

‘I take my coat off, go to the back of shop and start steaming and ironing the clothes, then I put the iron back. Then I go to the front of the shop to sort out the clothes, labelling them and arranging the bags and jewellery.’

What do you like about volunteering?

‘I like meeting different people.’

What have you learnt during your time volunteering?

‘Getting to know what to do with work, it’s important to have a nice attitude, be nice to people and talk to them, be happy and friendly.’

What do you think about Lucy coming with you?

‘It’s great, a really good thing that she’s doing for me. She has a nice personality, I can talk to her, she’s friendly and listens to what you have to say.’

What advice would you give people that want to volunteer but have never done it before?

‘I would go up to that person and ask them if they would like to have a job and what sort of job, I would then say you are doing well and you should go for it.’

Employability skills and a pathway to employment are integral elements of Share's training and support services. Volunteering opportunities can be a really important step for people with learning disabilities to progress towards employment and become more socially included in their communities.