Befriending to help the lonely in Bury St Edmunds

Befriending coordinator Amanda Larcombe with some of Bury's 50 volunteers
Befriending coordinator Amanda Larcombe with some of Bury's 50 volunteers
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A charity that helps isolated people find someone to talk with has celebrated a successful year of volunteering.

The Befriending Service in Bury St Edmunds – offered in partnership with The Voluntary Network and Age UK Suffolk – made an appeal in the Bury Free Press last year for volunteers to befriend 12 people ‘in need’ in the town.

A year on and things have changed so much that there is now a surplus of volunteers.

“The support in Bury has been tremendous. We’re able to not have any clients waiting, which is the most important thing,” said befriending coordinator Amanda Larcombe, who carefully matches clients and volunteers based on shared interests so wants to encourage even more people to sign up to the scheme.

“I just thought it would be nice to give some time up for people who are lonely and don’t have much interaction,” said befriender Carol Smith.

Her husband, Ed, who visits a couple in their 90s, said: “I have a lot of interaction with the husband in particular – he’s a fascinating man to speak with.”

“I come away with a bit of a buzz, thinking I really enjoyed that today,” said Ann Maree Gaskin. “I get a lot out of it and I think it’s nice to put something back into the community.”

County councillors Sarah Stamp and Mark Ereira-Guyer have both given locality funding to help raise awareness of the service.

“It’s a really valuable and worthwhile experience and I’d recommend it to everybody,” said Cllr Stamp.

Cllr Ereira-Guyer said: “Some people spend their whole day not hearing the sound of their own voice and, as a sociable person, I realise what that can mean.”

To find out more about becoming a volunteer, or to refer someone in need, call 01638 608048 or email amanda@thevoluntarynetwork.org