On Tuesday the 4th of November we attended an event in the City Hall run by “Volunteer Now” to celebrate Befriending week. The event was set up in order to give credit to the different organisations which offer different types of befriending services and to acknowledge the benefits of these to their service users. There were a number of organisations present and each organisation received four invites with places for two representatives and two volunteers, this was a great privilege and opportunity for us to attend and see the big difference that Befriending is making all over Northern Ireland.
There was a String Quartet to open the morning which was a group of boys from St Malachys Boys School, The Lord Mayor of Belfast was also present and gave a few words about the event and also about Befriending itself and the benefits of it among the community. Wendy Osborne the chief executive of Volunteer Now spoke about befriending and how it effects the everyday lives of different people and the positive impact on both the befriender and the service user. Wendy focused on one certain quote that she had heard from a service user “the warmth of someone who cares” this statement impacted a lot on myself and the others that attended with me as we realised just how much “caring” can impact a persons life.
There were a number of guest speakers two of which were service users, one lady had her guide dog with her as she got up to speak she spoke about her Befriender from Belfast Central Mission in such a warm and caring way you could really see just how much of a positive impact Befriending had made on her everyday life. Listening to the different service users speak about their lives and different experiences gave us from Lighthouse a great insight and hope that we too could make such a positive impact on a persons life with our Befriending Project.
Throughout the morning I could see just how hard the different organisations have been working in order to keep recruiting volunteers and also to be able to offer the best service possible to their service users. It was also lovely to see the Befrienders efforts and work being acknowledged and rewarded in such a positive way, a few of the other organisations that attended were Volunteer now, Stroke Association, Action on Hearing Loss, Action Ability Belfast, Mindwise and Deafblind NI.
The event in City Hall was a great opportunity for the different organisations to come together in order to celebrate Befriending week in Belfast, it as also a great way for us to obverse and learn the different ways befriending can help a person and become more aware of the different services available in Belfast and Northern Ireland to maybe signpost these or our own service to others who could benefit from these in the future.