Berwickshire HA’s BeFriend celebrates 10 years of companionship

Berwickshire HA's BeFriend celebrates 10 years of companionship

Michelle Meldrum (in pink) listening to befriendees’ stories

Berwickshire Housing Association has celebrated 10 years of its BeFriend programme.

A 10-year anniversary celebration was held last week for volunteer befrienders, partners as well as befriendees to thank them for their contribution. The event also saw BHA chair, Jim McDevitt, giving out certificates of appreciation to BHA Befriend volunteers. To mark the ten years, a special video as well as a mini exhibition have been produced.

It was five years ago when Cathy (name changed) who lives in Kelso reached out to the BHA BeFriend service. She was living then with her husband who had dementia and although her family was very supportive, they were just living too far away.

BHA BeFriend matched Cathy with BeFriend volunteer Rebecca (name changed) who visited her on a regular basis and made sure that she had frequent calls during Covid lockdowns and restrictions. Rebecca also supported Cathy when her husband had to move into a care home two years later and now the two see each other every week for a coffee and a chat. Cathy doesn’t feel quite as isolated as before and Rebecca and her are now firm friends.

BHA BeFriend journey started off as a simple idea to support people who were lonely and isolated. To check-in when no one else was around, have a day out, to lend a hand or just share a conversation. In 2012, Seton Care, which was one of BHA’s subsidiary companies at that time, started the scheme for older people with funding from Comic Relief.

Over the past 10 years, the project has reached out to benefit more than 220 older people living in Berwickshire and Kelso who have been supported by over 60 volunteers. The National Lottery Fund has supported the scheme since 2016 investing £450,000 into the project.

Thanking all who had contributed to making the project the success it is today, BHA’s chief executive Michelle Meldrum said: “We know from the findings of much research and from speaking to our own customers that loneliness can lead to both physical and mental health challenges. We are grateful to have the support of partners such as the National Lottery Fund who have invested significantly in the project over the years.

“The success and impact of BHA BeFriend is a result of the passion and dedication of our volunteers who are the lifeline of the project. Without their time, compassion, helping hand and listening ear, we would not have been able to reach out to so many people and support them through their times of need.”

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