Did you know that we run a befriending programme? It’s called A Helping Hand and it offers refugees and people seeking asylum one-to-one support to help them settle in Calderdale and get to know the area. It is especially beneficial for those who are isolated or for families and single parents.
The aim is to build friendships between Centre Members and volunteers, which has a positive impact for all involved. It includes having a regular chat, going for a walk or visiting places and doing things together. We also want to encourage our centre members to start volunteering with us, or if they feel confident enough, to become befrienders themselves.
Miles is a volunteer befriender. He says:
“I was keen to be a befriender because I have often seen people who look like they might be seeking asylum in Halifax and just a smile and hello was all I could do to make them feel welcome. They are so isolated. They live in limbo, often spending long hours alone worrying about their relatives back home. With little English and no way to contribute they can feel invisible. Not surprisingly many have mental health issues.
I have learned a lot from my befriendee about isolation. By encouraging him to leave his room and explore Halifax, by getting some practical things, like an old frying pan and a mug and some spectacles, he seems to feel more able to think about his future.
He still has bad days and sleepless nights, but he is smiling more and more. Getting to know him has been a heartwarming experience. He teaches me Turkish words and I teach him some English. English will be the key for him.
He has been through a lot and is still vulnerable, he gets fazed by crowds for instance, but his strength and intelligence are beginning to shine through.
There is a long road ahead, but St Augustine’s has supported him with advice and in so many other ways. I feel proud of the progress he has made and the confidence he is beginning to show.”
Samina is a Centre Member who was matched with a befriender and really values the friendship:
"The befriending scheme helped me so much - to know the town better, to know the UK life better and most importantly I made a friend who listens to me when I'm feeling low and having a bad day. She cheers me up and shows me the positive side of life. She's been very supportive throughout our friendship, I appreciate her a lot."
Rabia Zaka is our Volunteer and Befriending Coordinator. She says:
“It's a very satisfying job. When you first meet a Centre Member, they may be struggling with lots of aspects of their situation - for example, language, isolation, not knowing the area, not knowing what facilities are available and how to access them.
Matching them up with a befriender and watching a beautiful friendship develop gives me a great feeling. Especially when you see the duo participating in different activities at the centre like gardening, our walk and talk group, English classes etc.
The language barrier is always there, but our befrienders and befriendees are creative about finding ways to communicate with each other, and a smile and friendly face is just the start. I really appreciate the time befrienders give to the relationship, and the many methods of communication they use to build a bond.”
If you’re interested in becoming a befriender, please email Rabia to find out more.