Telephone befriending, zoom befriending, doorstep befriending, and park or garden befriending have all been in action here at Middle East B.friend over the past few weeks! It’s been wonderful to see how creative our 50+ volunteers have been with adapting to meet needs in new ways and stay in touch with befriending partners and families. We’ve received pictures of Eid packages left on doorsteps by befrienders to say ‘we are thinking of you’, befrienders reading stories over zoom to kids who haven’t been in school and befriending partnerships taking a socially distanced walk together to encourage exercise, fresh air and social support.
For one Syrian family who arrived right at the beginning of lockdown, their befriending partners on zoom are the only local people they have been able to get to know! Despite having very little English, and the befrienders having very little Arabic, they have managed to form a basic friendship which they are looking forward to building on when they can meet together more! A highlight was dropping beautifully wrapped gits to their family for Eid, and seeing them in person for the first time!
In this time we have also developed a new programme called ‘The 5 questions’ which has provided structured English learning support for partnerships which need a bit of practical help to get conversations going over the phone. It has involved asking the same 5 questions each week, and is designed to build on vocabulary, confidence, and getting to know each other. Befrienders have reported that it’s worked well, and been a useful tool for initiating conversations.
Despite the obvious restrictions covid-19 has imposed on us all, it seems that many of the befriending friendships have continued to deepen, with one of the refugees telling us in a recent review “He’s an amazing friend…I won’t let you take him from me if you try!”
Thank you again to all our wonderful volunteers for all the time, creativity and thoughtfulness you put into building friendships! It’s really appreciated.
By Karen Green, Middle East B.friend project manager