By Sarah Mac Donald - 15 February, 2014
ALONE, the charity which provides support and friendship to the elderly in need, on Friday released a series of stories to celebrate the bonds of companionship between its volunteers and service users in the spirit of Valentine’s Day.
As an example of an “unconventional Valentine”, ALONE used the occasion to thank its 150 volunteers who visit more than 200 elderly people living in the Dublin region who would otherwise be isolated or lonely.
The main role of the volunteer is to provide companionship through a regular visit – but in many cases a lifelong friendship and bond is created.
One volunteer, Elaine, recounts how “On a lovely summer’s day in June 2012, on my way into work on the bus, I spotted a huge ALONE poster and I instantly knew that this was a charity which I would love to be involved with.”
In January 2013, she met Florrie. “I knew that she was going to become someone very special in my life. I got a very warm feeling from Florrie, she is an exceptionally endearing lady. Florrie is 83 and lives by herself in Drumcondra in a lovely warm and cosy house.”
She now visits Florrie once a week and “always leave her house smiling.”
“I look forward to our cup of tea and of course the odd cake or biscuit – she is a devil for the chocolate and I am not much better!”
“Often we catch up on our favourite soap, Emmerdale, or sometimes we just tell each other how our week has been.”
“I have made a very special friend in Florrie and her friendship has made a huge difference in my life. Even on a bad day in work I will visit Florrie afterwards and I always come out smiling. There really is ‘something about Florrie’!”
Another volunteer, Barbara, initially contacted Alone after a personal experience made her aware of the amount of older, lonely, vulnerable people in Irish society with nobody to care about them.
“It got me thinking of what I could do to help.”
After finding out about the ‘befriending’ service ALONE provides, she knew that was what she wanted to get involved in.
“I have been visiting John for almost a year now. He has no family and no friends who visit him so he was really very isolated.”
“We chat away each week and I’ve come to find out so much about him. I feel it an honour that he feels able to share his personal life stories with me, happy and sad ones.”
“He has cried with me when he has looked back and remembers certain times in his life and I find it hard not to cry with him but I’m glad that he has an outlet to do this……who knows if he would ever get to talk about them otherwise.”
“He thanks me for being his friend and asks only that I promise to visit the next week and bring a smile. I never really appreciated that by giving so little of your time to another person that it can make such a huge difference to them.”
“Little does John know how much he’s helping me and that I get just as much from my visit as he does.”
Another volunteer Fiona, also saw an ALONE poster on a bus one day and said “it broke my heart.”
“When I got home I looked up the ALONE website, sent an inquiry and it went from there.”
“I was matched with Mary in April 2013. When I first went to meet her, I felt quite nervous but it didn’t take long for us to feel comfortable together. Within a couple of weeks, there was no stopping the chats and banter between us!”
“Mary is a very open and fun person. She makes me feel very welcome in her home and she tells me each week about how much she was looking forward to my visit and how much she enjoys our time together. I feel exactly the same”
She says that every time she leaves Mary’s house she has a smile on her face and always has “something sweet to chuckle about when I think about her during the week.”
“When I visit her I am greeted with open arms and a big smile! We usually enjoy a cup of tea and a biscuit together and catch up on the most recent gossip or things that have been happening in the world that week.”
“She likes to question me about my love life and give me bits of advice which always makes me smile and laugh!”
“Thanks to ALONE and the befriending service they provide, both of us are extremely grateful and delighted with the friendship we now both value so much.”