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5 Jun 2020 Volunteer News

Befrienders – here when you need them.

Before the coronavirus pandemic, Kirkwood's Befriending service was playing a vital role in supporting patients affected by a life limiting illness across Kirklees. When the crisis hit, Kirkwood moved quickly to launch its Telephone Befriending service to help some of the most vulnerable people in our community.

This week, we're paying tribute to the amazing support of volunteers. Without their dedication and commitment, many our services would simply not be possible. Today, we tell you about our befriending service and the role that volunteers like Keith and Helen are playing...

The Befriending service at Kirkwood first launched in 2017 to support patients with life limiting illnesses, whose circumstances left them feeling lonely or isolated at home.

Since its launch, Kirkwood’s Befriending services has seen many dedicated volunteers, such as Helen and Keith Wilberforce, join the team. For Helen and Keith Wilberforce, it’s a great way to support a local charity close to their hearts. And in recent weeks, they have played an important role in getting Kirkwood’s Telephone Befriending service up and running.

Helen and Keith moved to Holmfirth three years ago from a small town called Sedbergh in Cumbria.

Having previously worked on many community projects in the past, from setting up youth clubs and craft co-operatives to working in local community charity shops, Helen and Keith were eager to get involved in the community surrounding Holmfirth after moving to the area.

Helen and Keith


Helen said: “We didn’t know anyone when we moved over here. When we saw the Kirkwood Hospice shop in Holmfirth one day, it gave us the idea to find out more about volunteering. We arranged a meeting with the Volunteer Co-ordinator and left it feeling utterly uplifted and committed.

“It seemed like we could join a ready-made community of staff, patients and volunteers. We were impressed that we would be fully-trained and we didn’t look any further. We have never regretted it.”

Helen and Keith first joined the Kirkwood volunteer team as Enabling Volunteers, but have since extended their role to support many different areas.

Helen said: “We were always interested in the idea of becoming Befrienders, even before the service had launched.

“We wanted to combine several different roles during our time volunteering at Kirkwood, and being a Befriender fitted well with us being Enabling Volunteers on the In-Patient Unit.

“Supporting someone with a life limiting illness in their own home seemed like a very special friendship to me. It’s a way of offering companionship and hoping for friendship. We’ve enjoyed getting to know our ‘befriendees’ as people.”

Keith added: “I enjoy making a bond with my ‘befriendees’. There is something humbling about them recognising your voice on the phone and being able to hear the smile in their voice.”

Since the outbreak of coronavirus, many services at Kirkwood have experienced huge changes. Throughout the pandemic, Kirkwood’s focus has been on ensuring patients, families and carers continue to receive the support they need – despite being in lockdown.

Care Co-ordination Team Leader, Catherine Thompson, said: “It was clearly identified at the beginning of the pandemic that we would need to adapt our services to support people in a different way.

“We know there are people in Kirklees who need our support but who may be shielding, socially isolated or lonely at the moment. Setting up a Telephone Befriending service felt like the natural next step.”

Kirkwood’s Volunteer Services, Care Co-ordination Team, Service Development Manager and Clinical Director worked collaboratively to get the service up and running as quickly as possible.

Volunteer Co-ordinator, Jade Redman, said: “To get the service up and running, we had to ensure a full training guide and telephone protocol was in place. The service launched initially at the end of April with referrals coming through a number of different services at Kirkwood.

“I was then able to invite our volunteers to an online training session through Zoom and I made our first befriender match on the 15th May. The service has grown incredibly quickly, with 14 active referrals and many more still coming through.

“We have had a huge amount of support from our wonderful volunteers. Volunteers from other areas of the charity, including our shops, have come on board with the service whilst they are unable to undertake their usual role. Since the pandemic, Helen and Keith have also both stayed in touch with their matches.

“Whilst still being a new service, we have had amazing feedback from both our service users and our volunteers so far.”

Since the launch of Telephone Befriending, the Care Co-ordination Team and Volunteer Services are working closely to share the service with patients who may benefit from talking to a befriender.

If you are interested in becoming a Befriender at Kirkwood, please contact our Volunteer Services Team at: volunteer@kirkwoodhospice.co.uk.

If you or someone you know might benefit from Telephone Befriending, please contact: 01484 557900.

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