Befriending service for the lonely in Northampton plea for urgent volunteers

Caroline and Angie have become good friends since Caroline was put in touch with Link Lives Northampton one year ago.
Caroline and Angie have become good friends since Caroline was put in touch with Link Lives Northampton one year ago.

A volunteer group in Northampton town centre is changing the lives of residents by lending an ear for one hour every week, but they are in need of urgent recruits.

Linking Lives was started up by volunteers at Christ Image Assembly Church over three years ago and since the group was launched, the initiative has changed the lives of people who might be lonely or living in isolation, across Northampton, for the better.

Angie takes Caroline out once a week to cheer the 69-year-old up.

Angie takes Caroline out once a week to cheer the 69-year-old up.

But now the group - with just 14 volunteers - is desperately urging for new members to come forward to help ignite the spark in someone again, as referral rates have soared.

Caroline Giles was referred to the service about one year ago after her marriage broke up and she found herself without a job following her retirement in 2004.

She already volunteered for Emmanuel Church Food Bank once a week but had no one to speak to for the other six days and was feeling increasingly down in the dumps.

Caroline, 69, of Weston Favell, made attempts to get involved in other social activities near her home but found herself becoming isolated as there is no bus service on her estate.

Angie is urging people to reach out and help Link Lives Northampton if they have a spare hour in the day.

Angie is urging people to reach out and help Link Lives Northampton if they have a spare hour in the day.

She said: "I already come to church, when I go home after, I don't often see anyone until Sunday and food bank is Wednesday.

"It makes me feel horrible, I go in, shut the door and that's it. I don't like living on my own. There's so many people that are lonely but won't admit it. It knocked my confidence when I had to retire."

Volunteer coordinator, Angie Kennedy, interviews volunteer candidates and carries out DBS checks before a friendship can be formed. After the volunteer has been told whether they are successful, she pairs the volunteer with a friend.

As part of her role at Linking Lives, she tries to meet the requirements of the friend who is asking for companionship, by gender, geographical location and hobbies.

Angie, who has been matched with Caroline as a friend, added: "I love to see the scheme making a difference in people's lives. When you talk to the other volunteers and see the joy on their faces, when they say 'we had a laugh about this' it's really brilliant - they all wake up looking forward to their visit. It's that, which drives me on to do this."

"Giving them their passion back, giving them their purpose and giving their life back if they have a disability, to actually link them with a volunteer to allow them to get back the life they thought they lost."

She said one of the most difficult parts of her role is not having the resources to help everyone.

"We have had a huge influx in people looking to use our service.

"The need for it is going through the roof and we are constantly getting referrals, which we can't match because we can't get the volunteers. It is heartbreaking to know that there are people out there who we can't help.

"We are looking for a long-term relationship so this person isn't going to be let down in four months time. Anybody can do it. If you have an interest, and an hour to spare a week, you can help."

To volunteer, email Angie Kennedy on linknorthampton@gmail.com