Sammy, 36, from Bristol met Irene through volunteering with the Marmalade Trust. After the project ended, they mutually decided they wanted to stay in touch and a lovely friendship has grown!
In November 2019 I was struggling with my mental health. I’ve got friends but I live alone and I was feeling quite isolated. I saw an advert for the Marmalade Trust and their Christmas Cheer visits and Winter Companions scheme and decided to apply. One of the people I got matched up with was Irene and we’ve been friends ever since.
Every Wednesday at 4pm I call Irene for a weekly catch up. We’ve also met up for coffee and gone shopping and she’s come out for dinner with me and my friends. Last year we made her an extra Christmas meal, so she had one for Boxing Day as well. Irene loves hearing about me going out with the girls and my trips to the pub because that’s what she loved to do herself. Irene’s got family but they live far away and she only sees them once or twice a year.
I’m in my 30s but Irene and I have got a lot in common. We both like gardening and we talk about that and we have a laugh together.
We both have bad days and we talk about it. I encourage her to go out for a walk and get some fresh air and if I’ve been working too hard she tells me off and says I need to rest! I look after her and she looks after me.
It’s been more difficult to meet up in person since the pandemic but Irene said she wanted a new walker. I got an Argos catalogue and put a sticker on the walkers I thought would be good for her, and I dropped it around to her house. Irene ordered a walker and was so grateful; she says she doesn’t know what she’d do without it. She can go and get her hair done down the road now. Irene says that meeting me has completely changed her life, little things like the stickers in the Argos catalogue can make a big difference to someone’s life.
I started volunteering because I was feeling lonely myself and I needed something to keep me going. If you’re in a similar position I’d really recommend signing up for volunteering or a companion scheme. It can be life changing and both of you can get so much joy out of it. A lot of people struggled during lockdown and even having one person a week to speak to can mean so much. My life is better for having Irene in it – and she’s good fun to take to the pub!