Find out what an average day looks like for Kathryn, T.E.D. Friendship Co-ordinator!
The working life of a befriending and friendship co-ordinator is both varied and immensely rewarding, with no two days alike. However, an example of a typical day may look like something like this:
My day usually begins with a drive through the stunningly beautiful Lincolnshire Wolds to either the picturesque and historic market towns of Louth or Alford or to the glorious seaside resorts of Skegness, Mablethorpe, or Sutton on Sea. Known collectively as the Sunshine Coast – although it has been known to snow in these resorts on my visits, each area is unique and residents have differing needs.
My first stop is a home visit to meet an individual who has been referred to the befriending and friendship service from East Lindsey Wellbeing. This lasts for almost two hours and is an opportunity for a good chat, over a cup of coffee, to find out the needs of the individual, share information about the T.E.D. Project and to agree the best way forward to meet these needs. This could be companionship at home or support to take part in local community activities with a befriender, such as a luncheon club or Tea with T.E.D., or signposting to another agency to provide the best possible specialist support and advice. Leaving a reassured service user, who has enjoyed their first “proper” conversation in the last four months, I make a quick detour to the Marisco Medical Centre and pop in to say hello to one of our T.E.D. Volunteers who is happily serving refreshments to patients and handing out hearing aid batteries for those who need their batteries replacing.
Following this, another short drive brings me to a local nursing home and a meeting with the home manager and the T.E.D. Networking Co-Ordinator to discuss a possible friendship group, plus events and activities for the residents that can be held either in the home or in a local venue. It is agreed to open up the sessions to people outside the home and the names of a couple of volunteers who would be happy to support the group come to mind.
After a quick sandwich in the car, returning missed phone calls, and buying a pint of fresh milk, another short drive brings me to my afternoon venue, The Coastal Centre, and the setting for my afternoon Tea with T.E.D. After a short catch up with the T.E.D volunteers, the venue staff, and the Older Persons Adviser from Citizens Advice, the room up is set up, information booklets artfully displayed, the table is laid, the MENSA like challenge of putting the cake stands together is completed, and a delicious array of cakes, buns and biscuits (free from foods also available) are lovingly arranged on the tables. Whilst the Volunteers greet the attendees and supervise the sign in sheet, I meet and introduce the guest speaker – who may be talking about energy saving deals, giving advice on scam awareness, talking about bowel cancer screening or giving one to one advice on using technology. Whilst everyone is enjoying coffee, cake and conversation, I use this time to talk to potential and new T.E.D. members about the service or about the volunteering opportunities. I offer one to one guidance for those that need it and signpost to other professionals if required, and help complete a T.E.D. wellbeing survey, as there is privacy to do this. Then it’s back to the main table, cuppa in hand, joining in with the chatter and laughter with everyone. Today, we discuss local issues, what is good about living in the area and what T.E.D. members can do to overcome any of the issues. This will be reported back to the Evaluation and Research Officer and then on to the National Lottery.
At a Tea with T.E.D. event, I always like to pause for a breath, sit back and look around the table at all the members chatting with their neighbours, laughing, sharing experiences, telling stories, forming friendships, swapping numbers for dementia support groups or reliable taxi firms for trips to medical appointments, and inviting each other for coffee, to attend a social club, or to join the local the Men’s Shed. It’s a wonderful moment.
At 2.45pm it’s time to encourage attendees to complete the event evaluation forms and ask them for suggestions for speakers or activities for the next Tea with T.E.D. Then suddenly two hours have passed in a flash of tea and buns and its time to clear away, thank the volunteers, and arrange dates with the venue manager for ongoing events, load the car up and drive back to Horncastle.
Driving west, with the sun setting behind the Wolds, I feel a strong sense of satisfaction at day well spent, and reflect on how lucky I am to get paid for enjoying coffee, cake and conversation in such inspirational and fabulous company!
Back at the office- a room at the rear of the historic Stanhope Hall (a former Drill Hall and WW1 hospital and saved from demolition by the local community), I unload the car, boot up my laptop, make a few phone calls to introduce myself to the potential new befriending volunteers, answer emails and prepare for my befriending volunteer induction the next day.