Hannah Gafa is highlighting the importance of befriending networks which offer support by building relationships with older people and those with mental ill-health or learning difficulties for example.
Hannah, a second-year MBChB Medicine student, initially signed up as a befriending volunteer with Lancashire Volunteer Partnership in line with course requirements but was inspired to continue working with the organisation after seeing how big an impact the scheme had.
The 20-year-old said:
“The person I have befriended frequently tells me how great it is to have someone to talk. They say ‘it’s like a weight has been lifted’.
“There is nothing better than knowing you are making a difference – that feeling is invaluable.
“I would urge anyone who’d like to do something like this to just go for it. The benefits to you and the people you support are huge.”
Hannah, from Leighton Buzzard, Bedfordshire, took part in telephone befriending, having regular chats with someone who was dealing with loneliness; she was able to offer genuine support and companionship to a vulnerable person while juggling her studies.
“I really feel like I’m making a difference to someone’s life.
“And taking part in telephone befriending particularly has really developed my communication skills which I feel will really help during my studies and throughout my career.”
Edge Hill actively encourages students to volunteer, recognising it can boost employment options and provide a great opportunity to give something back to the community, make friends and find out more about the local area.
Through Edge Hill’s extensive third sector network, more than 200 organisations have benefitted from students interested in volunteering. The Careers Vacancy Portal lists dozens of volunteering opportunities and the Extra Edge employability programme rewards students for engagement in voluntary or part-time work. The Student Opportunity Fund operated by the University can even help students with costs for some volunteering activities.
Volunteers’ Week takes place 1-7 June every year. It’s a chance to recognise the fantastic contribution volunteers make to our communities and to say thank you.