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Cambridgeshire Mencap


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Your Befriending Experiences


Here at Eddies we value our volunteers and love to hear from you about your experiences. Here Bev Housden, tells us more about the experience as a Volunteer Befriender to Steph.

'It is a very humbling experience to know such a small thing as befriending someone could make such a difference.'

Eddie’s (formerly Cambridgeshire Mencap) is a local charity that supports adults with a learning disability through its befriending scheme.

We ask volunteers to meet with their friend for a few hours, once a month; it’s a very flexible way to volunteer with many volunteers fitting it alongside work and family commitments.

Bev Housden, volunteer befriender with Eddie’s said, “I joined Eddies as a befriender after seeing an advert in the local paper asking for volunteers. Having recently retired from nursing I wanted to give something back to the community by volunteering and I’ve never looked back.

Bev said, I first met Steph, a lady in her mid-40’s with mild learning disabilities in June 2012 Steph was very shy and quiet. Having met Steph at home with her mum and the befriending coordinator a couple of times; we decided to go bowling. I collected Steph from the day centre which Steph liked. She told members of staff when I collected her I was her friend and we were going bowling, they said she had been talking about it all day and had been looking out for me to come and pick her up.

After a few trips out bowling together Steph began to feel more relaxed and wanted to stay for 2 games. Steph continued to relax with me and she became chattier, she loved to talk about her little dog. Steph’s mum said Steph was comfortable and enjoyed her time with me.

Steph asked if we could go horse riding as she had enjoyed going in the past. I found a local RDA (Riding for the Disabled) and Steph attended weekly. It was also at this time Steph started to attend weekly sessions at “Artworks” an arts, crafts and drama day centre also run by Eddies. For the first session I went with her then after a few weeks she was happy to go and come home in a taxi.

Steph’s confidence in going to different places and meeting new people went from strength to strength. Steph made conversation with the staff and other users at RDA and she started to ask to go to the different places she wanted to try. Gradually Steph felt happy to stop and have a coffee and sometimes a bite to eat. Steph’s mum had said this was something she would not have done prior to our friendship.

Over the 2 years Steph took part in a fashion show held by “Artworks” and she also modelled for a local store to fundraise for Eddies, this was something she would not have done due to lack of self-confidence previously. This was a huge achievement for Steph, Steph’s mum could never have imagined her having the confidence to do this and to really enjoy doing it too!

There was huge benefits for Steph’s mum too, as she was able to have free time without worrying about Steph or having to take her with her, which gave her some independence back.

I have enjoyed befriending Steph and watching her gain confidence whilst making new friends. Knowing it has helped her mum regain some free time for herself is a wonderful feeling. It is a very humbling experience to know such a small thing as befriending someone could make such a difference to so many people.

Steph at the farmSteph Horseriding

To volunteer with Eddie’s you do not need any previous experience as full training is provided and of course this is all free of charge. The training covers what a learning disability is, information about autism, Makaton sign language and much more. We also hold regular volunteer social evenings including meals out, quizzes and afternoon tea. Volunteers are matched with someone of a similar age, location and similar interests and we reimburse all out of pocket.

We currently need new befrienders in Fenland; particularly in March & Wisbech. We are looking for people aged 18 and over with a few hours to spare each month to go out and enjoy things like meals out, trips to the seaside or meeting for a cuppa and a chat.

Suzanne Lombardo, Volunteer Co-ordinator at Eddie’s said; “Volunteering is always fun, doesn’t cost you a penny and it really does make a big difference to the person being befriended as well as the volunteer. As an organisation we aim to provide fantastic opportunities for volunteers with lots of help and support to ensure each volunteer achieves what they want from the experience.”

If you would like to become a befriender with Eddie’s then please do contact Suzanne at the fenland office on 01354 651166 or email Suzanne.lombardo@eddies.org.uk If you would like to find out more about benefiting from this service please call Vanessa or email Vanessa.droy@eddies.org.uk.

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