National Befriending Week is celebrated every year from 1st to 7th November providing a great opportunity to raise awareness about the positive impact befriending makes in communities and in people’s lives.

This year Sight Support HEY will be celebrating the success of its Telephone Befriending service which aims to tackle loneliness and social isolation amongst people with sight loss; a service which has been all the more vital during the Covid-19 pandemic.

“Many visually impaired people already felt isolated because of their sight loss before Covid-19,” explains Sight Support HEY’s Telephone Befriending Coordinator, Karen Dunderdale. “And now, many are missing close contact with friends and family even more”.

Since lockdown began in March, our dedicated team of volunteers have made 2,120 telephone calls and spent more than 800 hours chatting on the telephone to help people with sight loss feel more connected and less lonely.

This Befriending Week Sight Support HEY is recognising the amazing efforts of its Telephone Befrienders with a special virtual Tea Party as volunteers and staff alike get together at 11am on Thursday 5th November to share a cup of tea and say “Cheers for Volunteers”.

“Befriending is about cups of tea, lots of laughs and chats about putting the world to rights or who will win this week’s footie match. But more than that, it's transformational and we receive such lovely feedback from the people we call,” says the charity’s Marketing Manager, Angela Gregory.

Just a couple of the messages received over recent months include:

“I can talk to Julie who Is lovely and we get on really well together, sometimes she is the only person I speak to all week.”

“I look forward to and enjoy my call from Mehdi for the chance to chat as I don’t have much conversation in my life. The befriending service is the best thing I have got involved with in ages and it’s great to know I’m not being left alone or forgotten about.”

And it’s not just those receiving the calls who benefit.

“In the true sense of the word it was a serendipity moment that brought me and Sight Support’s Befriending scheme together,” says Carol. “When the mandatory lockdown in the UK was imposed in March, like most of the population I felt overwhelmed, paired with equal measurers of dread and panic but becoming a befriender and making phone calls to check in on isolated and vulnerable people has put a silver lining in the dark cloud that is Covid-19”.

Anyone with sight loss in Hull and East Yorkshire who thinks they would benefit from a regular telephone call can contact Sight Support HEY on 01482 342297 or email info@sightsupport.org.

The charity also welcomes more volunteers for the scheme. If you can help, email volunteering@sightsupport.org.