“I don’t know what I’d do without you,” said one of our scheme members. We are the Two’s Company Keswick Befriending Scheme and we’ve just celebrated our two-year anniversary.
We launched in July 2021 as a partnership between Churches Together in Keswick and the Keswick Rotary Club with the support of Age UK West Cumbria and as a member of Linking Lives UK. Our aim has always been to reduce loneliness and social isolation in the Keswick and surrounding CA12 area. The scheme has steadily grown over this time becoming an established community provision. Fiona is employed as the part-time coordinator; I’m a volunteer leader and we’re supported by a group of trustees as a CIO (Charitable Incorporated Organisation). We’ve been generously funded by local public and private donations, but especially by the Cumbria Community Foundation.
Since starting we have had 50 referrals of individuals for befriending and these referrals have come from a wide range of health care professionals, family and friends, and sometimes the individuals themselves. Not everyone wishes to proceed, but currently, we support 19 individuals, known as scheme members. They receive regular befriending visits either in the home or outside in the community. Over the last year, a monthly activity afternoon has been established at a local retirement complex which is well attended by both members of the scheme and other residents. We currently have 25 trained local volunteers, and as referrals continue to increase, we are always looking to recruit new volunteers.
We believe we are making a real difference to the lives of those being visited, as well as having a positive impact on those doing the befriending. One of our volunteer befrienders said, “I have been involved in many organisations in my life as a volunteer, but this has given me the most satisfaction.” Our prayer is that we will always have sufficient volunteers to meet the needs of those who are referred, knowing there are many in our rural community who would benefit from having someone to chat with on a regular basis.
More about Linking Lives UK
National Christian charity, Linking Lives UK, works with churches and Christian organisations across the UK to address loneliness – particularly among older people. One key approach used is by setting up ‘Two’s Company Befriending’ schemes on a local level and some of these are run by Churches Together groups including schemes in Keswick, Cockermouth, Eastbourne and Chislehurst. The model enables volunteers to visit or telephone those who would otherwise have little or no human contact each week, and offer genuine friendship and support for 1-2 hours on a weekly or fortnightly basis. This contact has a significant impact on the lives of scheme members and volunteers by improving confidence, and self-esteem. It enables local Christians and churches to engage with some of the most marginalised people in the community. If your church or network is interested in finding out more about this model visit the Linking Lives UK website.
Free Volunteer Training Opportunity
As part of their work, Linking Lives UK runs regular training for volunteers taking part in regular activities such as lunch clubs, drop-in centres and community cafes. The training covers subjects including ‘managing boundaries’, ‘safeguarding’ and ‘effective listening skills’. This two-hour online course is now available free of charge during October to any volunteers involved in these environments.
Linking Lives UK is a Charity and Network in Association with Churches Together in England.