Published Friday 5 June 2020 at 10:07
A telephone befriender has made such a difference to an 84 year old Darwen man that he’s put pen to paper to write her a poem of thanks.
Ron Hall, who lives alone following the death of his wife Doreen in 2019, has missed getting out to his usual social groups since the Coronavirus lockdown at the end of March. He’s been feeling lonely while isolated at home and needed help to lift his spirits.
Six weeks ago, the Blackburn with Darwen Council Lancashire Volunteer Partnership team put Ron in touch with Catherine Maycroft who started volunteering as a telephone befriender during lockdown.
Now the pair talk on the phone every week, and have struck up a friendship based on Ron’s love of writing rhyming verse.
45 year old Catherine, who lives in Pleasington, said:
It didn’t take long for us to strike up a rapport. Ron talks to me about his family, in particular his wife Doreen who he was married to for almost 60 years.
Our phone calls give him a chance to talk, and hopefully help him out when he is feeling lonely as he can’t go out and socialise at the moment.
He reads me some of his poems too, and it’s so touching that he’s written one for me.
Ron wrote poems for his wife during their courtship and all through married life. Since she passed away last year, he has continued writing poems to help him express his grief. It’s only in the past few months that he has begun to share his poems with anyone else.
Ron, who’s a retired Warehouse Distribution Manager, said:
Catherine is very good for me. She doesn’t mind listening to my poetry!
It’s made a real difference having someone to talk to. She calls me when she can, when she puts her baby down for a sleep and we can talk for an hour or more. The time passes very quickly when we’re chatting.
In his poem, Ron wrote:
‘I look forward to our little chats, it really makes my day,
To know that someone cares enough to check if I’m OK.’
At the start of the Coronavirus lockdown, Blackburn with Darwen Borough Council, through the Lancashire Volunteer Partnership website, appealed for more volunteers to work as telephone befriender to support isolated people through this difficult time when they perhaps can’t connect with their usual support networks.
There are currently 50 telephone befrienders like Catherine supporting 56 people across Blackburn with Darwen, making a difference by giving their time and a listening ear.
Catherine, who’s currently at home with her 10 month old daughter, added:
I worked as a careers advisor in schools for 18 years and I think I honed my listening skills in that role. I had done some volunteering before and I enjoy working with older people.
So when the lockdown began, I thought about the things I could do to help isolated people and contacted Age UK. They put me in touch with LVP and I became a telephone befriender. It’s my way of making a difference while I’m at home with my baby daughter.
Councillor Mustafa Desai, Executive Member for Adult Services & Prevention at Blackburn with Darwen Borough Council, said:
We are blessed in Blackburn with Darwen to have people like Catherine who look for opportunities to help others and make a positive difference to their lives. Lancashire Volunteer Partnership does a fantastic job of supporting volunteers and helping to match befrienders to people who really value their time and their company.
As some form of lockdown and social distancing restrictions look set to continue for weeks, the LVP can offer support to anyone struggling with isolation and loneliness by putting them in touch with a telephone befriender. Just a small act of kindness can make a huge difference to someone’s life and help them cope better with the current situation.
Anyone who knows of someone who would benefit from the support of a telephone befriender can email firstname.lastname@example.org.
For more information about Lancashire Volunteer Partnership, visit www.lancsvp.org.uk.
Read Ron’s poem in full:
Catherine, My Befriender
Catherine is a friend of mine who calls me on her phone,
Just to see I’m alright because she knows I live alone.
I look forward to our little chat, it really makes my day,
To know that someone cares enough to check if I’m OK.
I know I’m very lucky, she’s got time to talk to me,
What with a little baby and a hubby who wants his tea!
Catherine, I’m really grateful that you give me so much time,
And I’m sorry if I bore you when I read a verse of mine.
So this will be the last one, I wrote it just for you,
And I pray that in the future your dreams will all come true.
Ron Hall, 2020