The night before Doris* died, she asked her daughter to write a letter to the paper. “Tell them that the visits from the young people have made my life complete,” she requested.

The young people that Doris was talking about were local neighbourhood befriending volunteers. Their visits to Doris were just some of the 10,000 befriending visits carried out by an army of volunteers over the last 20 years in Brighton and Hove. And that’s down to the life’s work of one man — Sean de Podesta, a humble yet well-loved and hugely respected figure in Brighton’s third sector community and beyond.

As Manager of Together Co Befriending (formerly the Neighbourhood Care Scheme) for 21 years, Sean has helped socially isolated and lonely people across the city to find lasting friendship and company with their neighbours. Friendships, which are often a lifeline for some of the most vulnerable people in the city.

And the impact of his work continues to rise. In the last 4 years, Sean has seen a 71% increase in demand for the service, including expanding the cause to reach more BME and LGBTQ+ communities and people with mental health problems. It’s testimony to Sean’s vision of ‘kindness and good neighbourliness’ that more volunteers are signing up than ever before.

It was a fitting celebration of his incredible legacy to share tea and cake with our community of volunteers, supporters and members at the wonderful Metrodeco cafe in Kemptown.

As one long term member of Together Co Befriending said,

Sean you are a wonderful man, who has changed the lives of so many people. You have been a big help and brought change to lonely, isolated citizens of Brighton and Hove. You understand how loneliness eats away at a person and you have dedicated your life to making change.

A huge thanks to Metrodeco, Brighton Cakes, Betsy’s Bake, A Taste of Dreams and The Cheese Man for your gifts in kind, your donations and support. It was truly wonderful.

Thank you to Sean for everything you have done for Brighton and Hove. We look forward to passing the baton to a new generation of people, who want to make their neighbourhood a kinder place, where no one is left out.

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© 2019–2024 Together Collective a Company Limited by Guarantee registered in England and Wales: Company No. 03895574, whose registered office is Projects The Lanes, Nile House, Nile St, Brighton BN1 1HW. Together Collective is a registered charity: Charity No. 1083390

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