Make Someone Feel Less Alone By Volunteering As A Befriender

Make Someone Feel Less Alone By Volunteering As A Befriender

Loneliness is an issue that’s always been close to my heart. I’m not really sure why exactly, I have always found the idea of someone being alone in life deeply distressing. No one should have to exist in this world without anybody to lean on, or share life’s beautiful moments with. For years I had it in my head I wanted to help elderly lonely people, but it took me 28 years to properly look into it.

What is loneliness?

I have been volunteering for my local befriending scheme for nearly a year now, and I wanted to share my experience with others. If my experience doesn’t inspire you to volunteer yourself, hopefully it will just make you think about loneliness, and the people in your life who could do with a little more support.


People also don’t completely understand the concept of loneliness, because they assume that you have to be completely alone with no one in your life to feel lonely. You can actually have lots of people around you and still feel completely alone. This is something I have discovered since volunteering. I quite like this definition by Check out their article on loneliness here. 

Loneliness is not feeling part of the world. You might be surrounded by loads of people but… you are still lonely.

Another thing people often wrongly assume when they picture a lonely person is that most lonely people are elderly. In reality, young people can feel extremely lonely too, and may not be getting they help they need. If you want to do befriending, you can choose to be paired up with someone of any age. It just depends what sort of person you think you will get on best with and can help the most.

Finding a match

befriending loneliness

I, like a lot of people probably do, pictured helping an elderly person who had no one in their life whatsoever. I could easily have been paired with someone like that, but I am glad I wasn’t, because I have seen another side to the concept of loneliness.

Also, the lady from the council who pairs people up told me I may not get an elderly person, because a lot of elderly people feel they will have nothing in common with young people. It’s a shame because I love talking to elderly people and often end up chatting to them in the street and when I am out and about.

In the end I got matched with a lady who is in her 50’s. I obviously can’t say too much about her personally due to privacy concerns. She does have people in her life, but they aren’t necessarily helping her to feel any less alone. Just because we have people there for us doesn’t mean that our relationships with them are strong or that they are a positive influence on our lives.

I give her another person to talk to, I am someone who is outside of her life, and can give her a completely different perspective on things. She’s not lonely per se, but that doesn’t mean that our meetings aren’t beneficial to her. She’s also obviously had a bit of a tough life, and before I met her she lost two relatives in a very short space of time.

So what does befriending involve?

It involves meeting up with someone for an hour or so every week, or every couple of weeks (depending on how much time you have to give) and simply spending time with them. You are not their carer, you don’t have to do things for them, you just have to be there as someone they can talk to. It’s not necessarily a normal friendship that you form, for me it’s more of a companionship. Although as you get to know the person you obviously develop empathy towards them and take an interest in their lives.

You don’t have to commit a huge amount of time to this type of volunteering. An hour a week is all you need to give. Think how much time you waste doing unnecessary things each week, when you could be doing something much more rewarding. Although it doesn’t take a huge amount of your time, it’s important to understand that it’s still a fair commitment. It’s not fair on the other person if you start to build a relationship and then suddenly decide to stop. Plus once you get to know someone, it wouldn’t be easy to just cut them off completely.

Mutually beneficial

It’s important to remember that while you are helping someone, you get something out of the experience too. Some people get into befriending through completely selfless reasons, but a lot of people do it because they also think it will benefit them in some way. Here are some of the benefits to being a befriender:

  • You get to meeting interesting people you might not otherwise have met
  • It opens your eyes to what other people have to put up with, and makes you appreciate what you have.
  • It helps you to focus on someone other than yourself. You can escape into their world for an hour a week.
  • It’s obviously a fantastic thing to have on your CV.
  • You learn a lot about yourself e.g. how good a listener you are.
  • You get to meet someone and potentially form a new friendship.
  • You feel good about yourself for helping others.

There are many more advantages. So what do you think? Could you become a befriender? If you are interested, contact your local council for advice. I would love to hear from people who are already doing it, feel free to share your experiences.

*main image courtesy of, third image courtesy of

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