By Andy Hirst

Volunteers have been asked to give just one hour a week to enhance the lives of people who are lonely … and there is a long waiting list for those needing the befriending service.

Community Connections run the project across Kirklees for any adults who are lonely or isolated but need more volunteers, especially as the long nights have now drawn in.

The service is free and the volunteers visit people in their own homes for company and a chat and can even go on short walks or to a café.

Lucy Martin, volunteering development officer for Community Connections, said: “At the moment we have up to 60 people in desperate need of being matched with a community friend in order to alleviate some of their loneliness. It means we have a waiting list so we are trying to find volunteers who have a spare hour a week to make a difference to people’s lives in Kirklees.”

Everyone who volunteers has a two-hour training session to give an overview of the service, covering topics such as dementia, safeguarding, communication and what to expect.

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Lucy said: “We had one lady who always wanted to learn how to do crochet and found a befriender who could teach her that skill which has brought so much happiness to her life.”

At the moment Community Connections, part of the Huddersfield-based Yorkshire Children’s Centre, has 83 face-to-face befriending matches but demand keeps growing, especially in the wake of the pandemic.

Lucy added: “Covid has made some people – especially those who have had to shield – feel so anxious about going out to the point that some now can’t even face going to their local shop. They are really scared of the virus and feel it’s unsafe to go out.

“We have others whose families live a long way away and if they suddenly lose their husband or wife become socially isolated very quickly.”

People can be referred to Community Connections by professionals, family and friends or can even self-refer.

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Volunteer Aileen Newsome from Gomersal said: “After being made redundant from a company I had worked at for many years I was suddenly at a loss. I felt I had no purpose to life and wanted to find a volunteering role.

“The Yorkshire Children’s Centre will do their best to match you with a suitable friend. In the unlikely event you don’t feel your match is working they will find you another friend. I have befriended three ladies now and they have been lovely matches. Befriending is a great thing to do and can help make someone’s day or week a little less lonely.

“Volunteering has improved my wellbeing. It’s satisfying to know that even giving a little of my time can mean so much to someone who is lonely.”

If you can help phone 01484 415465, email or visit the Community Connections Facebook page.

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* Written by former Huddersfield Examiner Head of Content ANDY HIRST who now runs his own Huddersfield-based agency AH! PR specialising in press releases, blogging and copywriting for business in Yorkshire and across the UK.