Upon starting university in 2008 and finding my feet I realised there are so many opportunities to take part in volunteer work. I have always wanted to do something worthwhile and it is a chance to gain experience and add extra skills to my C.V. I logged into the “Volunteer Now” website and from all the opportunities I was faced with I chose to be a Befriender for Praxis, working with young people who are in the process of leaving the care system. I was instantly drawn to this one as working with a young person sounded like it could be fun. My role as a Befriender is to offer friendship and support to a young person, this mainly consists of spending time together regularly and doing social activities.
After completing my training I was matched with a young person about six months ago. We have done lots of fun things: cinema, circus, shopping, barbeque on the beach and most recently we went to Todd’s Leap Activity Centre.
Before meeting my young person for the first time I was extremely nervous, all I could think was “What if she doesn’t like me?” however any potential befriender should remember this piece of advice I was given by The Co Ordinator, “No matter what you are feeling, I can guarantee the young person is feeling ten times worse than you are.”
Our first meeting on our own was just a coffee and a chat as we had to get to know each other but after a couple of meetings I think we both relaxed and now we just meet up and chat like I would with any of my other friends.
Becoming a befriender has opened my eyes to other people’s situations, helped me to expand my skills and given me the opportunity to take part in activities that I probably wouldn’t have done otherwise like going on Ireland’s biggest zip slide and 100ft high water slide!
As befrienders we are not responsible for the young people but we have a responsibility to pass on any concerns to The Co-ordinator. She gives me a lot of support and I know that if I am worried or fretting about anything I just need to pick up the phone. The young people are really appreciative of the time we give. I think it makes a difference to them that we are there because we want to be.
Overall, I think this Befriending Service is a brilliant and beneficial service and sometimes an essential part of the young person’s aftercare experience.
As a potential Befriender I am sure you will have many questions but don’t back away before having them answered in a phone call an email or over a coffee.
I hope by sharing my experiences more people will be encouraged to come forward and be Befrienders.
It’s so easy and definitely rewarding.
If anyone would like any more information or would like to become a befriender please contact Janet Simm, Befriending Co-Ordinator on 028 9446 0695 or 07952415744 or alternatively e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org
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