This month we hear from our volunteer, Nicola Warren.
When I was first paired with a befriendee, I was excited. We had a lot in common: our African roots, our Portuguese heritage and she had been a great dancer in her time (I love dancing!). When we met face-to-face, I found a genteel lady with a warm smile. She was accompanied by her husband, who facilitated our early visits as his wife had not been feeling too strong. Sadly, she passed away a few weeks later.
The VLS team handled this well. They notified me of her passing and suggested I take some time to consider if I wanted to continue as a volunteer (yes, I did). They then asked what I thought about visiting the lady’s husband. Recently bereaved, they felt that he could use the company of someone who had met his wife and had some understanding of his situation. So, nine months ago that is what I did.
My experience of volunteering has been different to what I expected. I thought that I would be helping my befriendee to get out and about, or perhaps do a spot of admin, or even come up with a puzzle or activity to keep us occupied. But this is not the case. Instead, I am welcomed with a cup of tea and a cooked lunch, accompanied by stories of an interesting life and discussions on topics ranging from who will go out of Strictly to the afterlife. It is never dull – and I always learn something new (for example, the recipe for sardine curry – which is now a family favourite).
I am there to support him, yet my befriendee is a great cook and a generous host – so it sometimes feels that I am the one benefiting most. In fact, his generosity has been the only source of difficulty I have encountered to date (thankfully, deflecting gifts was covered in the VLS training).
Befriending has shown me the importance of real human connection in the absence of the distractions so common in our multi-tasking obsessed environments.