Friendly volunteers who can bring a smile to someone’s day by simply phoning them up for a chat are needed across Oxfordshire.
Phone Friends, a befriending service provided by Age UK Oxfordshire with funding from Sanctuary Housing, is marking International Volunteer Day on 5 December by calling on more people to sign up and offer their support.
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.
More than 280 older people in Oxfordshire currently receive at least one call a week from a Phone Friends volunteer and the feedback Age UK has received is overwhelmingly positive.
But demand is always growing and organisers are looking for more volunteers to take to the phones.
Paula Donaldson, Phone Friends co-ordinator, said: “Not having someone to talk to regularly can be lonely, but a friendly voice at the end of the phone can make all the difference.
“We need volunteers to join our friendly and caring team so that we can reach more older people and continue making a real difference.”
Volunteers only need to have two hours a week to spare and can make their calls from the Age UK office in Banbury or from their own homes.
Phone Friends volunteer, Mary, explained: “I started making calls over four years ago. In the beginning it was about building trust and a relationship, making the person you are calling feel comfortable and at ease.
“Now I feel I really know my Phone Friends, although I have never met them in person. They love to just have a chat and tell me about their grandchildren, gardening and the everyday things they enjoy doing.”
International Volunteer Day aims to celebrate and raise awareness of the efforts of volunteers and the contributions that they make to their communities.
Anyone interested in volunteering as a Phone Friend, or who would like to receive calls themselves, can contact 07557 038278 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
This project is part-funded by Sanctuary’s Community Investment Fund, supporting projects which benefit Sanctuary residents and their communities.