Volunteers were acknowledged for their dedication and commitment to Praxis Care with some receiving awards for 5, 10, 15, 20 and 25 years service. They all enjoyed a meal and time together sharing their experience and highlights of their volunteering over the last year.
The Befriending Scheme was set up in 1981 and matches volunteers with people who are suffering from or are at risk to developing mental ill health as identified by the local mental health teams or other professionals and currently provides support to over 1500 service users.
Praxis volunteer, Donna McAlleese has been a volunteer befriender for over a year and is thoroughly enjoying the role:
“I would consider my decision to volunteer to be one of my better choices in life. I believe that this type of position is different to other voluntary roles in that it offers both parties the unique opportunity to get to know each other on a deeper level and to become real friends. This brings rewards on a number of levels – not only for the volunteer and their friend – but also to the families of those who care full-time for people with mental ill health.”
One of the key drivers behind the Volunteer Befriending scheme is to reduce social isolation. This means that the role can be what you make it and there are no restrictions in terms of activities undertaken e.g. nipping out for a coffee, going to the cinema, a walk in the park, attending other social group activities or visiting our new Therapeutic Garden @ 14 Sandy Grove which was officially opened on 01 May.
Our new therapy garden has been redesigned by the Housing Executive to clear the ground and install raised beds for growing vegetables and flowers with a therapeutic element. It is hoped this will aid the recovery of all our service users by enabling a calming environment to enjoy social interactions.
Donna also explains “Sometimes because of the individual’s mental ill-health, it’s not always possible to go out. Having the patience to wait until my friend feels comfortable and well enough to go out is a key part of the role. However, I have found that even just by being there, having conversations about what’s happening in both our lives, makes a big impact. I can see them visibly uplifted as we talk.
Volunteer befriending doesn’t just impact the befriendee however; it also benefits the individual’s family and friends. Indeed, Donna has been thanked on numerous occasions “for not giving up”.
Donna plans to continue being a volunteer in the long-term: “I love it. I find it really fulfilling, doing something with a purpose. It’s really nice to be able to get close to someone…to develop a long-lasting friendship. As a volunteer, it is also nice to have no restrictions in terms of times or activities. This means that, together, we can inject some fun into what we do by focusing on our hobbies and interests.
Praxis Care relies on the support of volunteers. If you would like to find out more about volunteer opportunities in your local area, please contact Jo MacOscar, Praxis Care, 14 Sandy Grove, Magherafelt. Telephone 02879634488. Email firstname.lastname@example.org