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We see Lonely People Come To Life Again

28th October 2020

by National Lottery Good Causes

Emily Kenward is the founder of the charity Time To Talk Befriending, which provided immense support to elderly people during lockdown. Emily is one of 12 people who have a bench dedicated to them to celebrate her invaluable support to her community during the covid 19 pandemic.

Time to Talk Befriending charity specialises in reaching out to the elderly and vulnerable, particularly in trying to build up support for those who have few friends or company.

From its modest beginnings in 2013, it grew to a team of eight with 500 volunteers and supporters by this year.

But demand for the charity’s services rocketed over lockdown as staff and volunteers sought to support over 800 vulnerable elderly people - many who could no longer have face-to-face contact, but who also needed provisions like food and medication.

The idea for the charity first began almost ten years ago when Emily Kenward was a mature student studying social work at Brighton University.

Each day she would walk past a little church in Kemptown and noticed the high-rise blocks with their rows of windows with all the curtains closed.

She knew from her studies that the blocks were senior housing schemes where hundreds of older people lived, but after researching the subject, she found many people in the area hadn’t seen or talked to anyone for months.

The discovery prompted Emily to set up a charity connecting the elderly people of the area with volunteers for friendship and company. Offering them support to get to group events or try to build networks of friends in the area. Many of them simply wanted a friendly face to visit them at home.

The charity has also become one of the many charities supported by The National Lottery, with players contributing around £30 million a week to good causes.

Emily says: “The heartbreaking thing is people telling us they don’t want to be here anymore because they have no purpose and they feel so alone,”

“But quite quickly we see people’s lives literally transform. People come to life and feel like they’re in the world again.

“These are people with an amazingly rich life history, so it feels like a privilege to be able to offer an opportunity for them to not wilt away and feel forgotten.”

Over lockdown, Emily and her team switched away from face-to-face contact with members, most who are aged 80 and over, and many who were living with long term health conditions. Instead the charity began providing them with fresh meals and emergency care packages every week.

Referrals from the council’s emergency hubs also increased dramatically, but the success of the charity’s work has been incredible.

Emily says: “The most uplifting moments are just hearing their stories. People have written in to us to say that they didn’t have any family or friends but now feel like they’re not on their own and belong to a community.

Emily who is now in her second year of Lottery funding says: “The long-term goal is to replicate what we’re doing and help many, many more people.

“The National Lottery funding’s been brilliant and its meant we can now also work in Worthing.

She says: “Loneliness is in the spotlight and befriending is needed more now than it ever has been, so I feel very proud of the team and everything that’s been achieved.”