Wetherby women meet for first time after months of charity telephone chats

Two Wetherby women whose weekly phone chats kept each other company during the darkest days of lockdown have finally met- hailing the impact the charity led scheme has had on both their lives.

Hazel Wade, aged 60, rang Winnifred Ware, aged 88, once a week as part of a telephone befriending scheme organised by WiSE.

Now the friends- thrust together in lockdown- have finally met in person, sharing a well-earned cuppa at one of the charity’s first face-to-face coffee mornings in months.

Hazel said: “I’ve been volunteering for WiSE since January. I had retired just before the pandemic struck and had put together a retirement plan which covered lots of areas including learning new skills and helping in the community. Most of my plans were put on hold by the pandemic, so when this opportunity presented itself I was keen to make the most of it.

“Even though I was only telephoning Winn on a weekly basis, it gave some structure to my week. I was also feeling isolated at home, so it was lovely to have an interesting person to chat to. I like to feel useful and hope that I was, but I also truly feel that she did as much for me. I like to think we helped each other to get through the dark days of winter and lockdown.

“Our relationship has really developed over the last few months. Winn is a really interesting lady and she told me all about her life and family. She also tells me about the theatre group she is involved with, books she likes to read and meals she enjoys. We also spoke about all the places we were both going to visit after lockdown and the friends we would catch up with.

“She is interesting, resilient, positive and always looks on the bright side of life. When I met her, she was exactly as I had imagined. We gave each other a big hug and it was a real treat to sit down with her and have a coffee and have our first face-to-face chat.”

WiSE’s befriending service matches an isolated older or vulnerable person living alone with a volunteer who gives up their time to regularly provide friendly conversation and companionship.

Where possible, matches are made based on shared interests and location. Volunteers come from all walks of life and are asked to commit to a minimum of one hour a week involving dropping in for a cup of tea and a chat, or a telephone chat.

Winn said: “I have been a friend of WiSE for many years. My husband sadly died a long time ago, so the activities help me get out of the house and see other people as I now live alone.

“Talking to Hazel was a welcome distraction during the pandemic. The first lockdown was no problem for me as the weather was good and I would sit with my neighbours in our adjacent gardens and we were able to chat.

“The winter lockdowns were more difficult because of the weather, and WiSE had to suspend its usual activities. I found it very boring, but tried to keep busy reading, watching TV and sorting out cupboards. It was nice to hear Hazel’s friendly voice and give me a break from watching the TV.

“It was great that we were able to form a friendship without even meeting. When we were safely able to meet it was a lovely few hours. I’m hoping to see much more of her now the activities have started up again. WiSE always seem to offer something different which is good when you live on your own.”

If you are interested in volunteering for the Befriending Scheme, visit www.w-ise.org.uk/our-services/#befriending. Alternatively, if you are an older person who would benefit from a weekly friendly visit or telephone call, phone 01937 588994.

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