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Befriending: ‘I feel like I’ve got a new friend now’

Befriender Lauren in a training session at Voluntary Norfolk.  Photo: Bill Smith

Befriender Lauren in a training session at Voluntary Norfolk. Photo: Bill Smith

Archant © 2012

A volunteer and her client explain how Voluntary Norfolk’s befriending scheme has helped them both, after reading about the Norwich Evening News’s A Friend in Need campaign.

Lauren Wagstaffe became a volunteer as a way of doing something for others.

After reading about A Friend in Need in the Norwich Evening News, the 28-year-old software tester decided that giving her time would be a worthy alternative to donating money to charity.

She signed up in August and within a month had been paired with her client, Richard*.

He was referred to Voluntary Norfolk when he was diagnosed with depression and anxiety, after a traumatic period in which he suffered several family bereavements and the breakdown of his relationship.

Lauren said: “I’ve had issues with depression in the past as well, so I thought I’d be able to get on with someone in a similar situation.

“I feel like I’ve got a new friend now, someone I would not have met otherwise.

“It really doesn’t feel like volunteering when I’m with Richard. He’s a really funny guy and we get on really well.

“We do all kinds of things together – we might just watch some rubbish on TV or go for a bike ride if the weather’s nice. He makes great desserts, too.”

The pairing has helped Richard too, who said he felt immediately at ease in Lauren’s company.

“I had become a bit of a recluse after having had so many bereavements over the years,” he said.

“But Lauren has made a lot of difference to me already. I’m not very confident with lots of people around, but we go out together and I have really felt the benefit of that.”

Making time every week to spend time with Lauren has helped Richard, who is in his 40s, to begin the long process of coming to terms with the recent major changes in his life.

“I still have my ups and downs. Some days I feel ok, and then I’ll hit rock bottom again,” he said.

“I think once I’ve got myself back on my feet I’d be prepared to give it a go myself, because having a befriender has been a huge help to me.

“If other people are thinking of asking for a befriender, I would say not to be nervous and to at least give it a go.”

(*Not his real name.)

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