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Housing Day 2019: A simple phone call makes a real difference

7 October 2019
Woman smiling on the phone

A kind-hearted Sanctuary Housing resident is celebrating 10 years as a volunteer with a local befriending service that ensures older people in Oxfordshire have someone to enjoy a friendly chat with.

Gloria Clark, who lives in Banbury, dedicates some of her free time each week to volunteer with Phone Friends, a service run by Age UK Oxfordshire with funding from Sanctuary.

Designed to provide companionship and reduce loneliness for residents aged over 50, Phone Friends sees volunteers call the same people every week for a friendly catch-up.

The scheme also offers peace of mind to friends and family members, who are contacted if a scheduled call is not answered, as well as providing residents with signposting to other local services as necessary.

Gloria, who currently has six Phone Friends she speaks to every week, says a simple phone call has the power to make a real positive difference to someone’s day.

“I look forward to making my calls and they really make a difference to the quality of people’s lives,” she explained.

“Sometimes it can be hard to make that initial connection with someone over the phone, but once you have it is very rewarding for both people involved.

“The call is a two-way thing and my Phone Friends always ask about me too. I have spoken to some real characters along the way. We always enjoy a good laugh and I hear so many good stories, it’s a privilege to share in people’s lives.”

More than 390 older people in Oxfordshire currently receive at least one phone call a week from a Phone Friends volunteer, and the feedback Age UK receives about the scheme is overwhelmingly positive.

Organisers are always looking for new volunteers to take to the phones and Gloria says she would encourage anyone who enjoys a chat to consider becoming a Phone Friend themselves.
She said: “We live in a changing world and people just don’t communicate with each other like they used to. The telephone may ring but it is often a stranger trying to sell you something and not a call to look forward to.

“I would encourage anyone to give Phone Friends volunteering a go. There’s a real need for it and it’s a great way to make friends.

“We are all going to get older and I would like to think that there will be a service like this there for me when I might need it.”

Gloria is sharing her story to mark national Housing Day, which this year has the theme of ‘Community Investment’ and aims to celebrate the positive impact social housing providers can make by supporting valuable community projects like Phone Friends.

Sanctuary invested £1.4 million in community projects during 2018/2019, including more than £280,000 for initiatives aimed at preventing loneliness and reducing social isolation, supporting 19,500 people.

More about how Sanctuary invests in local communities can be found in its 2018/2019 Impact Report.

Anyone interested in volunteering as a Phone Friend, or who would like to receive calls themselves, can contact 07557 038278 or email phonefriends@ageukoxfordshire.co.uk



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