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Volunteers from across Northern Ireland were invited to celebrate their contribution to volunteering by Praxis Care last month at the Glenavon House Hotel in Cookstown.  During the event fifteen volunteers were awarded with long service awards for their commitment to volunteering, with one, Winnie O’Brien (Derry), receiving a special award recognising 25 years of voluntary service.

Many of the volunteers are involved in befriending individuals who feel socially isolated or lonely in their community as a result of their mental ill health. As part of the Together For You Project Praxis Care have been able to increase the number of befriending matches with thanks to funding from the Big Lottery Fund. Some of these new Together For You volunteers were present on the night, including Evan Bingham, who shared his experiences.

Catherine Little, Volunteer and Befriending Co-Ordinator for Praxis Care commented “Praxis Care relies on the support of volunteers like Evan. If you would like to find out more about volunteer opportunities in your local area please get in touch with Catherine Little, Praxis Care Volunteer and Befriending Co-ordinator on 028 9072 7161 or email me at catherinelittle@praxiscare.org.uk.

Evan started “I first became involved with Praxis back in 1988 as a result of seeing an advertisement for volunteers in my local library. I had some experience of mild mental ill-health in my family so thought that I would like to help those who had similar or worse experiences.”
When asked about what Evan enjoyed most about volunteering he continued “It is very satisfying to feel that you are making a difference in the life of another person, even if it is only a small contribution. Seeing a service user improve and gain more confidence is a great reward. Another benefit of the befriending service is the peer support given to service users and in some cases their families also, as well as Praxis staff and other volunteers.
Evan went on to say “I would encourage anyone thinking of becoming a befriender to just do it. There is always a lot of people waiting to be matched and you could make a vital difference to someone’s quality of life. Sufferers of mental ill-health do not receive the same empathy as people suffering from physical illnesses, perhaps because it is invisible, so every contribution is really valuable”
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