International Women’s Day: Florence & Ruth’s Story
This International Women’s Day, we tell the befriending story of Florence* and Ruth* – an intergenerational match who came together after Florence was referred to our service by the Brighton Women’s Centre. They’ve been talking since the start of the pandemic.
Florence* says: “It’s really really good. It took a while to get going what with the pandemic and everything but the staff at the Women’s Centre persuaded me to stick with it. My befriender is young and extremely friendly and fun to talk with. We have connections over astrology, and all sorts of different subjects.
“At some point, a few months back, my situation changed when I experienced an injury from which I’m now healing and Ruth* was very supportive and willing to listen to listen to my woes and how I was coping with the situation.
“Since then, our connection expanded, not only do we talk about different subjects of interest to both of us, but our conversation has become more personalised, sharing our feelings and experiences. Though Ruth* does push the conversation so that it will be about me and is often saying ‘I want to hear how you are’.
“Another aspect that came out of it was that since I could not do many of the creative things I was involved with, and needed to rest more, I turned back to my poetry writing, and to my surprise and joy Ruth* loves it when I read them to her.
“I do wonder why she is doing it, and what she gets out of it. I am in awe of people helping others, and had always thought of a volunteer as a certain type of person, of a certain age but my experience with Ruth* has changed that perception.
“I know she’s busy but she still calls me even after a long working day. I really appreciate the steady connection – the regularity of the weekly call is something I look forward to.
“I knows she’s not a friend, but there is a connection there and I’m really appreciative of her. It makes me consider befriending in the future. I could also reach out and talk to someone else who is lonely’.
Not only do we talk about different subjects of interest to both of us, but our conversation has become more personalised, sharing our feelings and experiences. Though Ruth* does push the conversation so that it will be about me and is often saying ‘I want to hear how you are’.
“Honestly, for me it’s about giving back to the community around me. It sounds really cheesy, but I feel like if a 30 minute or hour chat about astrology, art, films, and life can help brighten someone’s day then it’s worth it. I’d like to think that if I was struggling with loneliness, someone out there in the community would do the same for me.
“I’ve enjoyed it more than I thought I would, as I genuinely like hearing different life experiences and stories. It helps me gain perspective on things, but also I enjoy listening to others so it can be a really positive distraction from my day-to-day life which tends to be very loud and busy. It gets me out of my own head, particularly after work. I volunteer after I’ve been staring at a laptop for the majority of the day and it helps me to switch off.
“I’ve developed my listening skills and seen how much of a difference just having a chat can make to someone’s day. I’m quite an introverted person, so sometimes it’s easy to forget the power that having conversation can have in brightening someone’s (and my own!) day.
“It’s hard when my befriender is feeling low and sad, or is in a lot of pain. There’s nothing I can do to help except just listen and offer her a safe space to speak about it – but you always wish there’s more you could do when things are like that!
“If someone reading this is wondering whether to sign up for befriending I say do it! If you feel up to it, just go for it. Once you establish a good relationship with your befriender you can be as flexible as you wish. If some weeks are super busy, I just let my befriender know and she’s so understanding. She knows I’ll be back, and that sometimes life gets in the way. The important thing is to just be super clear and communicative and organised! I always keep my confirmed dates and always let her know if life gets in the way. ”
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