You’ve got a friend in me….
We all know what it feels like to need a little company: someone to tell you a funny story; immerse you in a great game of cards; offer a listening ear. And that is exactly why every single one of us has the capacity to do some excellent befriending.
Unsurprisingly in the sprawling metropolis that is London, lots of people could do with a friend. For example migrants, new to London, who could benefit hugely from some help adapting to a new way of life. The Arbour exists to help women, young people and other members of the Tower Hamlets community. As a woman you can get involved in their mentoring scheme for a couple of hours a week providing friendship for migrant women new to Tower Hamlets. With the skills you have just by being you, you can help someone adapt to the UK, practice their English and feel more at home.
It’s not only people that are new to London that could do with a friend. Tower Hamlets Friends and Neighbours supports older people in the community who may be isolated simply by their age and limited mobility, and so too can you by becoming a befriending volunteer. Spend a couple of hours a week visiting an older person for a cup of tea and a chat, accompanying them to an appointment or taking them on a group outing. This is a wonderful opportunity to give a little and make a massive difference. GoodGym approaches this slightly differently – the isolated individual in the community that needs befriending is in fact your ‘Coach’. As a volunteer, you run to your coach’s house, maybe you fix a lightbulb, bring them today’s newspaper, or they challenge you to do a Sudoku. Once finished, you run home. This keeps you active and your coach not only has some purpose in their day, but also someone to share their day with.
Bump Buddies is an organisation that has found yet another group of individuals needing a friend. Expectant mothers are mentored through their pregnancy, through all the ups and downs that this can involve. If you have experience of being a mother you too can get involved and provide stability for an individual feeling the pressures of this monumental time.
These final two schemes are different. Here one can befriend from a distance, by writing one off or regular letters to the worthy recipients.
Post Pals invites us to make a sick child’s day by writing to them. Be it a postcard of your favourite sight in London, a hand knitted cuddly toy monkey, a creative explosion of the contents of your craft box onto a handmade card – there are currently more than 45 children on their website who would love to be the recipient. Post Pals also involves supporting siblings of these unwell children who, understandably, may also be having a hard time.
Similar to this is Chemo Angels, where an angel ‘buddies’ with a patient to send uplifting cards, messages, presents and positive emotional support throughout their journey. The idea of spending your days in and out of hospital on a near on daily basis is heartbreaking, but thinking there are folks out there who, not even knowing you, may pick up a pen and write you a message makes the world feel like a much better place.
Now on a final note, and a slight tangent, I’ve been made aware of a café lately – The Nana Comfort Food Café. I want to mention it because it sounds brilliant and well worth everyone’s support. The café is based in Hackney – older women who don’t want to “sit at home waiting for Deal or No Deal to start” can work volunteer shifts at the Nana Café. An abandoned public toilet has been refurbished and the Nanas prepare homemade delicious traditional favourites and help at the café. Head on down there, see what’s in store and go grab yourself some quality Nana time.