“I didn’t have anyone to talk to about my sight – but Maureen has really been a special friend”
Isabel Douglas is losing her sight. She has macular degeneration and found dealing with it alone to be a difficult task. When she heard about Torch Trust’s pilot Journeying With scheme, Isabel was very interested in taking part. She was soon matched with Maureen Clarke, a retired nurse who had been looking for an opportunity to volunteer in the community.
Isabel often felt very lonely before the Journeying With befriending began. “I wouldn’t have talked to other people because they have problems of their own,” she explains. “I would have kept it all to myself. Whereas I could confide in Maureen – she was a good listener.”
Now she feels very positive about the scheme and her friendship with Maureen: “She’s a special friend, a friend who was trying to understand what I was going through. She has helped a lot, because I didn’t have anyone at all to talk to about the macular. She was very helpful, very pleasant, very encouraging, very good and I enjoyed her coming to me.”
Maureen also feels she has benefited: “We get on extremely well together and have a lot in common. I can see the importance of it and have gained a friend. It’s been enlightening really; I have a nursing background so pastoral care is something that I would lean towards anyway. It has been a great experience.”
The two have also helped each other in other ways. “We have prayed together,” says Maureen, “Isabel has prayed for me. She has been very supportive because I am doing a course with the church and she will say, ‘I will pray for you with your assignments.’ It has been a two-way thing which is very nice.”
Isabel echoes Maureen’s feelings: “Oh yes, we talk about faith. I’ve been a Christian for 60 years. Sometimes I let the Lord down, but he’s always there. Sometimes it’s hard to understand the way the Lord works. My husband died suddenly and I miss him a lot, especially now as you get older, but Maureen would let me talk and we have shared our faith. We have talked about things in the Bible. She’s a lovely person - a really ‘shining’ person!”
So what was the best part about Journeying With? For Isabel it was “Maureen coming through the door and ‘shining’, it’s just so special – her saying, ‘Isabel, I’m thinking about you.’ Just coming to the door means a lot because I don’t have many people coming here at all.”
Maureen felt that her favourite part of the experience was “seeing Isabel happy and contented, happy to do things and feeling supported, not forgotten about.”
And would the friends recommend the service? “Oh yes – it was brilliant!” answers Maureen, with Isabel agreeing: “I didn’t know how it was going to work but it was very, very good.”
Her coming through the door and 'shining'… Just coming to the door - that means a lot because I don't have many people coming here at all. I'm so lonely, very lonely. I had so much to do before this happened, then all of a sudden you've nothing to do.
It's what you don't know that frightens you, when you can't understand what's going on in the eye. [My befriender] would let me talk about it and that's a lot.
Impact on social interaction
I can't see people, I can't see their faces you see. You're walking past them and you can't see them properly. People wave out of their cars and you don't know who they are. So [my befriender] has been more than good coming to me and very, very helpful.
Withdrawal (positive impact on wellbeing)
I wouldn't have talked about things the way I do now. I wouldn't have talked to other people because they have problems of their own. I would have kept it all to myself. Whereas with [my befriender] I could confide in her and she was a good listener…
She's been a real friend. Somebody I could speak to about the way I was, the way I felt.
Compounded by other loss - illness or grief
My husband died suddenly and I miss him a lot, especially now as you get older, but [my befriender] would let me talk and we have shared our faith. We have talked about things in the Bible. She's a lovely person - a really 'shining' person!
We sat and we chatted and she made coffee for us as it was too cold to go out because I have heart trouble as well as being blind so we couldn't go for walks.
Christian context / clients already Christian – positive impact of opportunity to share faith together
If something happens with my eyes I get frightened and afraid whereas I know I should be trusting the Lord more but of course, because we are human, that's just the way it goes. [My befriender] has helped me a lot because we talk about it.
Talking to someone like yourself, it helps to be able to talk about your faith - it comes back to you when you are talking about it, it comes back to you both.
About Journeying With – overall impact of having a befriender
I would definitely recommend it. I would tell them about the change it makes in your life. Having somebody new coming in and discovering new friends.
It makes a great change in your life. If you get the right volunteer they are a great companion to you. They listen to you and talk to you. There is no distance between you - they are very friendly.
About Journeying With - church leader
I’m very pleased because they [befrienders] are out there talking to people, building relationships.
It is evangelism – it’s building relationships between the local church and local people.