Rae, Volunteer Befriender – Volunteers’ Week 2023

POTENTIALLY lonely and isolated people across the Bay look forward to an uplifting phone call from a volunteer befriender every week.

William Northway from Torquay knows that when his phone rings late afternoon on a Wednesday, it will be his chance to chat about a wide range of subjects – his eclectic work life and food in particular.

“That phone call means so much to me, as the only other person I speak to with any regularity is my cousin. Those calls cheer me up and I enjoy them very much,” he said

On the end of the phone is 37-year-old Rae Stanton from Paignton, who was put in touch with Bill via Age UK Torbay after contacting them in the hope she could support someone who otherwise would be lonely and isolated.

“I am very lucky, I have a large family and therefore have always had a lot of support, but that is not the case for everyone. I think reaching out to people and letting them know they are not alone can mean so much to them.

“Bill is quite a character, and we chat for around an hour a week, sometimes longer, and I know he appreciates it. He talks a lot about his many jobs and always has a recipe to share.

“Most of the time, he is bright and tells a lot of jokes, but he does get low sometimes and I think our calls help. It costs me nothing, just a little time.”

Not that Rae has a lot of spare time, she works as an environmental partner for cosmetics giant, Lush as well as helping run the Torbay Climate Action Group, so she often fits her calls in whilst working on the allotment or preparing food at home.

“It is a great way of giving something back and it is a two-way thing; I get a lot out of it and with someone like Bill to talk to, you always get to learn something new. I would recommend it to everyone. What’s an hour?” she added.

It is just an hour, but one that 62-year-old Bill looks forward to: “I do get down a lot, and it can take a while for me to come back up, but Rae can do that for me.

“I know a few people, but not many. I have been lonely all my life so my calls with Rae are very important to me. I rely on them to some degree; I am not sure where I would be without them.”

If you could become a befriender or have a background in counseling and could become a specialist mental health befriender, please contact the Torbay Community Helpline on 01803 446022.