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  • Debbie Ducille

The gift of friendship by phone

Anna Chaplain Eileen Simmons has sent in a lovely article, reflecting on her befriending role over the years. What a gift it must be to those whom Eileen faithfully listens to. Eileen reflects:

‘I love being an Anna Chaplain and learning from Debbie Ducille’s blog about the many ways other Anna Chaplains carry out their roles.

‘Amongst other activities, I do both Telephone Befriending with Age Concern Southend and independently visit elderly people in their homes. Both activities were in place before I became an Anna Chaplain, but I continue them as part of my role and believe very strongly in doing so. Telephone Befriending was absolutely vital during COVID and the lockdowns, but continues to be valuable to older people who live alone, with no family. Working with the local Age Concern, the calls take place weekly at a mutually convenient time. When I am asked to take on a new befriendee it takes a little time to build up trust, but after a few weeks, the conversation flows more readily.

‘I take great pleasure in these conversations. I report back monthly to Age Concern and this enables me to review my notes and see any patterns. Next month it will be four years since I started calls to one of my befriendees. I have never met her, she does not know my number, but feel I know her very well as she does me.

‘The one-to-one visits take place monthly depending upon the individual’s state of health and my diary. Most are very elderly, one has the early stages of dementia, but I am still known to him. With him I am very content to listen to stories of his past that I have heard many times before. Others are in their mid-90s, but still active and fully lucid. One even makes shortbread for me. We chat away about so many subjects. I timetable one and a half hours for such visits as I try never to seem as if I am in a hurry to leave.

‘The Befriending is just one aspect of my Anna Chaplaincy role but one I find satisfying, enjoyable and believe is much appreciated.’

Debbie Ducille adds:

‘Thank you for sharing this with us, Eileen: it is an experience that resonates for many Anna Chaplaincy network members, and is challenging for us all to consider: what can we offer in friendship to those who may experience great isolation? If we are less physically mobile ourselves, what might we give, and receive, as a blessing to others from our armchairs through a phonecall?’



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