Meet our Volunteer Spotlight for July 2020, Bonita Hopkins
"Being a befriender is a very worthwhile thing to do, both for myself and the people I befriend. From speaking to another person, I learn a great deal too. I would encourage anyone to do it if you want to help others."
Bonita (second from right in the photo) first started volunteering for Diabetes UK in November 2005 soon after she was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. She went to a meeting held by her local Penrith group. After a few months of going to meetings, she was elected secretary of the group and she helped as part of the committee for 12 years before the group closed a few years ago.
Bonita had been a befriender before for the Alzheimer’s Society and when the Diabetes UK Befriending Circle was launched in Cumbria, she was keen to be involved. She’s now been a befriender for 14 months. She says “I wanted to help other people as I’d been helped by talking to people with diabetes in the past.”
The Cumbria befriending circle
The Cumbria Befriending Circle was started up in 2019 to help to reduce isolation in a large area and provide a platform for people living and affected by diabetes to speak to each other. The initiative gives people living with or caring for someone with diabetes the opportunity to contact another person with diabetes by phone or email to share experience and support. The service is completely confidential. There are currently 14 volunteer befrienders and 12 people have been helped by the scheme so far.
The role of a befriender
So what makes a good befriender? The most important thing, Bonita says, is to be a good listener.
“I hope that I’m giving support and helping people to cope. We’re always clear that we can’t give medical guidance, but we can listen and we can signpost on to other services which can give specialist advice. You take your lead from one another. You decide how often you’ll speak and how you want to talk, by email or over the phone. You often start with talking frequently and then might speak less often over time.”
“Being a befriender is a very worthwhile thing to do, both for myself and the people I befriend. From speaking to another person, I learn a great deal too. I would encourage anyone to do it if you want to help others.”
The Cumbria and North East befriending circles are not currently recruiting for new volunteers, but if you are based in the area and would like some support from the service, you can contact the team in the North of England.
If you've been inspired by Bonita's story, take a look at our volunteering opportunities.