Jack was referred to the service in November, he was a little unsure about engaging with the service. He is partially sighted and lives on his own. Jack has lived a colourful life working down the pit for 35 years before living in Cyprus for many years. A cheeky chap that would suit a local volunteer as he enjoys talking about local monuments etc.
Jack was allocated to one of our new volunteers Gill, following the first call we received feedback from Gill who was over the moon and asked if she could contact Jack again. I spoke with Jack who was equally enthusiastic about speaking again with Gill, he said “an hour passed in a blink of the eye and the dreaded Covid was not mentioned once, which was a blessing, was nice to just talk to someone normally” he added, “the conversation just flowed as we moved from topic to topic.” Jack may have been sceptical, but he is certainly enjoying the calls now.
Charlotte is a young 24 year old council tenant referred from Roundabout. Charlotte lives on her own and suffers with mental health and drug abuse. After my initial call to Charlotte, she seemed reluctant to talk or engage. I got her to start talking about animals and Africa and this enthralled her. She started to open up to me and an hour later we had built a good rapport. I promised that I would ring her a week later, which I did. She was eagerly anticipating my call and we had a great chat again. At the end of the call she informed me that it was so nice to be able to speak to someone who does not judge her or wants to offer advice. She openly discusses her thoughts with me. She has told me that she is so happy that she can receive these calls as she feels totally isolated and alone.
I received a text from her thanking me and that she is really looking forward to receiving another call on Monday. Because of her drug abuse and mental health, she will remain with me.
Jepsy speaks in broken English as she is Spanish. She joined back in October 2020. She has a young family so does up to 3 calls a week. Jepsy has grown in confidence and has no problems communicating with the participants. Her English is improving all the time and she is really enjoying the conversations. She has one participant who she calls weekly and two others which she alternates. “Was able to speak with MW, she was very happy and we were talking about her daughter’s profession, and she also told me about the coronavirus vaccine, Mrs. MW has an amazing memory, because she remembers many things, when I told her she laughed a lot.”
Jepsy continues to call participants and even with the added pressure of home schooling, she is still keeping consistent with a few calls and looks forward to increasing when things return to some degree of normality.
By Jane Owen, Volunteer Coordinator
This volunteer started her volunteering with us back in the first lockdown. She had a very traumatic experience in her life and this still impacts on her daily life. She was allocated a lady to call who has severe mental health issues, schizophrenia and severe depression. After the first call of the week, the volunteer found out that this lady was very much on a down with her depression. Because of this the volunteer rang her every day just to enquire how she was. It was only after the fact that the volunteer called me to inform that she had kept in touch with this lady during the week. Because of the volunteers past and the calls made to the participant the volunteer found her own past intruding on her again and called me. As I had recently completed the mental first aid course, and because of my background I was able to offer the volunteer the support needed and followed up with a phone call to the participant who was so grateful that she had someone to talk too outside of her professional support.
The following day I received a lovely email from the volunteer;
Thank you for your much appreciated support yesterday. I hope you too have someone you can turn to if you ever need to.’
Susan originally came through to us from RDASH and was their first referral into the friendship calls. Susan is a very complicated case in that she is currently undergoing a transition from male to female. Suffers with affective schizophrenia, has delusions and Asperger’s syndrome. Susan has no confidence in herself or in the system and feels that she is often persecuted because of her choices. She has been ostracised by her family and has no friends. She doesn’t go out except when necessary to get food etc. My initial conversation with Susan went very well, and she did respond to me albeit a little guarded. Her comment was that it was going to be lovely to be able to speak to someone on a friendly level and hoped that I would ring her back. I followed up with a report back to the referrer from RDASH, which prompted a response thanking me for my professionalism and for taking Susan on, this has been discussed with the referrers other colleagues and has resulted in us starting to get more referrals from them.
I followed up a week later with another call to Susan who was totally surprised to hear from me saying that she did not expect me to call her back, and I explained that I enjoyed talking with her and that she would always get a call from me every week. She was so touched and after having a great chat about food, dreams and the general state of affairs, she burst into tears and thanks me profusely at the end of the call for just treating her like a normal person. I made arrangement to follow up again a week later. This week, she was so much more open with me and has started to trust me now by sharing her session with me that she had with her psychiatrist. This was a massive step for Susan who does not like talking about her issues due to not being able to trust anyone. We are now building a steady relationship and her trust and confidence is increasing.
I have known Peter for a couple of years now as her originally wanted to volunteer with the Alzheimer’s Society, but he found the training to be too daunting and he dropped out. Peter is a highly intelligent man that used to be a chemical engineer for TATA steel. He started to develop mental health issues, ODC and other problems and had to give up his job. He is an avid painter. He lost all of his confidence and was worried when he approached me again as a volunteer. After offering him reassurance that the training and induction was a lot easier than previously – he decided to give the friendship call volunteer role a go with a lot of support from me. He was extremely nervous to make his first calls, so we allocated Peter people that we thought he would find easy to communicate with. After his first calls, he rang me and was so proud of what he had achieved, he couldn’t stop saying what it meant to him to be able to give something to people and that he had an enjoyed it more than he expected. He immediately build a rapport with one of his service users, so much so that after a follow up with her, she has asked if he could continue calling her as she found him to be such a lovely person ‘he feels like an angel to me, and I am sure if I met him, he would be wearing a halo’ I reported back to Peter what had been said, and he was so happy so say that he would be very willing to continue calling this lady and they are now building a great relationship and Peter’s confidence is growing from strength to strength.
Peter Smith is a 106-year-old resident. I have been calling since the beginning of lockdown and have recently passed the call onto our volunteers. I rung Peter again this week to check in with him and to see how is coming along.
When I first spoke to Peter. He was getting food parcels each week and suffered with his vision, so he was quite nervous and unsure and very isolated. We hit it off straight away and Peter warmed to the fact that not only we were thinking of him, but also that we were there to chat and help.
Peter doesn’t have any family around. He was married, and once had children which he tragically lost in the air raids in Portsmouth in the war, but having spoken at length with him about having people around him, he is happy that he has numerous friends he can call on, like his 100 year old friend.
Peter comes from a musical family; whose Mother was a singer who toured America. This is something he picked up as a young man and played guitar until an accident forced him to retire and he eventually took up the harmonica. Each time I phone he will play me some harmonica down the phone from his favourite artist Larry Hadler. The music was a theme we had across all our calls, and Peter’s mood really picked up when we were on the topic of music.
Peter was even so good to give me some tips on my garden, and how best to grow potatoes. Peter really enjoys being able to speak to someone about common interests, something which he has not had in a long while. This has been a common theme of conversation and we have really bonded over our love of gardens and speaking about this has rekindled Peter’s Joy of gardening and has taken steps to get back into the garden and do things he hasn’t done in a long while.
Over the weeks we have built up a fond relationship and I can see that he has improved in himself because of this. He is now able to get out and about on his new scooter a bit and has started painting (something he hasn’t done for a long time) and has come a long way since the start of lockdown, with the friendship calls playing a major part in that.
Peter is now speaking with our volunteers and I am keeping in touch with him once per month to offer that support so we can keep that trusted relationship, and with our volunteers so he has a variety of people to speak to.
Neil came through to RotherFed as a potential service user from Social Prescribing. Neil lives with severe Borderline Personality Disorder and OCD and lives on his own with no family support. An initial conversation was held with Neil to explain the service to him. He was amiable and spoke a lot about his interests in Japanese culture and fast cars, I built a fantastic rapport with him and he opened up about the distrust that he has in people and the feeling that no one listens to him or understands him. I made arrangements to call him again the following week, and he was so happy to receive my call, he said it was a pleasure being able to talk to someone who just listens or who speaks about the things that interest him. Neil was very down at the beginning of the call and after 45 minutes he had cheered up tremendously and I was privileged to be named as his friend and he also stated that this is something that he thought would never happen to him, to have a friendly chat with someone who does not judge him, or try to change him, but someone who just lets him be ‘normal’ for a change.
Joyce’s granddaughter had arranged for friendship calls as she was worried her Nan was not getting enough stimulation. Joyce is 93 years old and lives alone, prior to lockdown she would get on the bus most days. Although Joyce did agree to the friendship calls, when I spoke to her granddaughter prior to ringing Joyce, she did say that her Nan is very independent and will either embrace the call or not want to speak to me as she is not a person for talking to strangers.
Joyce certainly embraced our call. We spent nearly 50 minutes chatting, Joyce told me all about her life and family and she also asked about mine. Following this call, I rang her granddaughter to let her know how it went and she was delighted that her Nan was willing to talk to me and that we had spoken for so long.
Since that day I have spoken to Joyce every week, sometimes twice a week, we always have a lovely chat and spend about an hour on the phone, we could talk for much longer too. Joyce really looks forwards to my calls, our chat is always very general, and Joyce is always very positive and never complains. I also enjoy chatting to Joyce, she is a remarkable woman. I have spoken to her granddaughter a couple of times since the referral and she told me that her Nan talks about me, about how lovely I am and how she looks forward to my weekly call, which is lovely to hear.
I think Joyce is a great example of a pure friendship call and how well these can work and the benefit they can have. My calls to Joyce are really making a difference.
Donna joined RotherFed back during the first lockdown. Donna comes from a very experienced background and has a wealth of knowledge. My relationship started with Donna in August when I first started with RotherFed and upon her first call allocated by me, it turned into a safeguarding case. Donna contacted me and I responded immediately and took the matter forward. Donna is a very astute volunteer and with her experience goes over and above what she needs to do as a friendship volunteer. She will always report back to me should she have any concerns, and my response has always been immediate. We have built up a good relationship over these last 3 months so much so that Donna now will always take on as many calls as we are willing to give her and will follow up with me weekly on any concerns. Donna informed me that she cherishes working with me as she feels really supported as a volunteer and feels that should she have any concerns, they will always be dealt with and this has also resulted in Donna being very willing to take on more complex calls as she feels that the support will always be there when and if needed. Donna will be rewarded for the work that she is doing due to her continued commitment to those that she calls.