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More volunteers are needed as the number of people seeking support from the Powys Befriending Service has risen by more than 233% since the start of the pandemic.

That’s according to Powys Association of Voluntary Organisations (PAVO) which is appealing to people to volunteer and help others. The service is designed to improve the independence of people over 50 by helping to maintain social networks and enabling people to live in their own homes for as long as they are able.

The appeal is being highlighted by the Welsh Government’s Help Us Help You campaign, which aims to raise awareness of the small changes that people can make to help protect and improve their health and wellbeing.

 Sharon Healey runs the service and says:

“Before Covid, we had 180 people across Powys requiring support from the Befriending Service. Now, that number has rocketed to more than 600. The service is open to anyone over 50 who is lacking in confidence and social interaction. The Befrienders help to tackle loneliness and improve wellbeing.

“Before Covid, our Befrienders would offer face to face sessions in a person’s home but we had to change overnight with the need for social distancing. We also had a massive influx of people looking for support.”

Now Befrienders can once again offer home visits but they can also keep in touch via phone calls, letters or emails. They can also take someone along to a Befriending group to build their confidence. PAVO now also offer digital online befriending groups:

“We have been so confined to our homes in lockdown and, as a result, we’ve seen an increasing number of people who struggle with social interaction. The issues of social isolation, loneliness and poor wellbeing has deepened since the start of the pandemic.”

Joyce Bettley from Newtown is enjoying her telephone befriending calls:

"I look forward to the calls so much and my volunteer is smashing. We talk about food, recipes, cooking, jam and everything else. It's absolutely lovely. I was reluctant at first but Natalie, the Powys Befriending Service Outreach Officer, persuaded me to give it a try and it's the best thing I've done.”

PAVO is now appealing to people who are friendly, can talk to others easily and can start a conversation:

“You don’t have to live in Powys to be a Befriender. We have people volunteering who live in America, France and Greece! But we often find they have a connection to Powys – perhaps they grew up here or they had family here. Increasingly, we are also looking for people who can speak other languages. Currently, we need people who can speak Turkish and Polish.”

In terms of time commitment, up to an hour once a fortnight is expected. Befriending volunteers are trained and police checked before visiting people in their own homes or in the community. 

If you would like to find out more about volunteering for the Powys Befriending Service, please get in touch on 01597 822 191 or 01686 626 220

If you are feeling low or you are struggling, contact the CALL Helpline for confidential listening and emotional support. Lines are open 24/7, call 0800 132 737 or text ‘help’ to 81066.