Andrew - telephone befriending with Homeline
When the Coronavirus hit the UK in early 2020, I stopped my part time job with families and stayed at home, to avoid catching the virus. I spent my time with our cats, reading, watching movies at home, occasional shopping, phone and video calls to many family members and friends. I missed the regular contact in person with others, and the benefits that this brings. I became bored. Phone and video calls were how people kept in touch with family and friends, how charities helped those they supported. Face to face contact, which means so very much to those isolated, was becoming rare.
With my long experience in the social care field, I decided to find somewhere to volunteer. I thought of Bishop Creighton House, which I had visited for a writing event years ago. I rang Jelena, the volunteer coordinator. She took me through the application process, and on 1st June 2020 I became a Homeline volunteer, ringing 6 people on the same day each week. Although Jelena patiently advised me on what to do, I was nervous on my first day. It was like starting a new job, though unpaid. Within a few weeks, as I got to know my people and they got to know me and our conversations grew in length. As I am friendly, like people, and am a good listener, I settled into the role. Although all of our people were glad to receive a call, it was a big change for many of them from speaking face to face. And for me too! Some like to chat, others prefer short conversations. I have learnt to judge this with each person. One man I phone shares my passion for cricket - the best game in the world, if you didn't already know! - so we always enjoy our chat. In December 2020 I delivered Christmas hampers to the same people that I call each week, so we were able to put a face to a name. This meant a lot.
The staff are always there to offer support, by phone and emails. With there being only 3 of them, I get very personal support and encouragement. The weekly Zoom coffee mornings, hosted by staff, are also a means to meet other volunteers. I find the experience of being a Homeline volunteer very satisfying, an opportunity to give something back. I may offer to expand my volunteering when the Covid crisis has ended, or at least subsided, subject to my time availability.