At times, just asking how someone’s day is going can make their day. It’s a notion upheld and applied across Hestia but truly forms the basis of our befriending service for those experiencing social exclusion due to long-term mental health issues.

For a couple of hours a week, volunteers meet one-to-one with like-minded service users and share in fun activities such as going to the theatre, visiting a museum or taking a class. Meet-ups can be as simple as playing Scrabble or chatting over coffee yet  this can make all the difference.

Many of our service users mainly interact with professionals. Having the chance to spend time with someone they can relate to in a more relaxed way is particularly powerful in promoting change,” explains Cosimo Matteini, Volunteer and Befriending Coordinator for Hestia’s Mental Health Integrated Day Services. “It supports them to achieve goals, reduce barriers to social inclusion, improve social skills and ultimately have a wider social network.”

"Of course, befrienders benefit greatly from the experience too. As well as getting out and meeting new people, volunteering can be a great way to learn in an informal and fun way,” Cosimo says. Beyond perfecting that triple word score in scrabble, befrienders develop a range of social care skills including communication and listening skills that are valuable in and out of the workplace.

Training courses on topics such as Mental Health awareness, Confidence and Assertiveness and Interview skills are also provided to support personal and career development . Thanks to volunteers experiences, five of Cosimo’s volunteers have secured paid roles across Hestia.

Still, the ultimate reward to volunteering in any capacity has to be that feeling of contributing to a cause you support. As Cosimo says, “It gives you a sense of ownership, that you’re part of something you believe in.” If you believe in compassion: in lifting others and the power of a ‘how are you?’, befriending is just one of the many ways Hestia can help you make someone’s day.

Interviewed by Fiona Anderson, Volunteer Social Media Content Writer