Tandem will be celebrating the difference volunteers make to their organisation next week and thanking them for all their time and dedication during this year’s Volunteers’ Week, which runs from 1-7 June.
This small, Oxford-based charity sets up one-to-one befriending partnerships between people living with mental health problems, and volunteer befrienders. Many people who experience some form of mental distress such as depression, anxiety or other mental health conditions find that their social networks are lost. It’s not hard to become lonely and isolated and that’s where Tandem steps in.
Tandem’s volunteers are matched with a befriending partner who is needing support as they rebuild their lives. Together they meet once a week, spending time in a café, going for a walk or trying out a new activity. Jordan began a befriending partnership with Richard just as the Coronavirus pandemic struck. They were only able to meet once before the first lockdown but kept in touch by phone until they were able to go for walks as summer progressed. “Our phone conversations were quite long”, says Jordan “and it was always really nice to find commonalities, like food and learning new recipes”.
For Richard, having a befriender meant that he was able to connect through lockdown. “People talk about how isolation has affected them during Covid, but the befriending partnership pushed me forward. I feel more able to talk a bit more openly, and I value the routine.” Richard also welcomes the personal nature of befriending. “You can build a connection: a thread of conversation, new things developing. That is really valuable”.
For Jordan, volunteering has brought positive benefits. “Being able to help another person makes me feel good too. It’s nice being able to positively make a difference and it’s been a real joy getting to know Richard”.
During an exceptionally difficult year, people from all walks of life have taken the time to volunteer and make a huge difference to their communities. When approximately 1 in 4 people in the UK experiences a mental health problem each year, Tandem wants to celebrate the contribution that their volunteers make. An hour a week really can change lives.