Befriending service established during COVID officially launches as new charity

 

In response to the Covid-19 pandemic local charity the Fermanagh Trust established ‘Connect Fermanagh’ - a volunteer run telephone befriending service that provides a listening ear to help prevent loneliness and isolation for the people in Fermanagh. The Connect Fermanagh service has proved to be so popular and successful that it has now been established as a new charity.

 


The newly formed Connect Fermanagh board of Trustees (L-R) Lauri McCukser, Caroline Storey, Helen Gilmour, Julie Carney, Pauline McManus, Louise Brady, Paula Monaghan and Sonya Johnston


Connect Fermanagh has been improving the social and emotional well-being of people throughout the county since April 2020 and to date has supported over 200 individuals thanks to a team of 30 volunteers who make weekly telephone calls. Calls from volunteers are supportive and light-hearted and help those who receive a call feel more connected to their community and know that they are not alone.


The majority of people who use the service are elderly, isolated and feeling vulnerable. Many have poor mobility and as a result, unable to access services or able to get out to the shops for weekly supplies, newspapers etc. Connect Fermanagh have also found many of their service users are digitally excluded, many do not have access to a digital device or if they do, they do not have the knowledge or skills to be able to use it or they have difficulty affording broadband. The pandemic shone a light on how many of our citizens are excluded from accessing information, health services, communicating with others including family and friends.

 


During the launch event at Fermanagh House, service users and volunteers expressed how much Connect Fermanagh means to them. There was high emotion as for many it was the first time meeting their befriender in person after speaking on the phone for two years. Lauri McCukser Director of the Fermanagh Trust spoke with pride at how his organisation started Connect Fermanagh thinking it would a short-term project but how it has now grown into a fully fledging organisation in it’s own right addressing the evident demand.


Julie Carney, Connect Fermanagh Co-ordinator commented “Our launch event was a chance to celebrate the success of the service to date and look forward to how we’re going to grow. The pandemic was the catalyst but loneliness was already there and even now without lockdowns the need for a befriending service is still strong.  For our volunteers it’s a quick and simple way to give something back through weekly calls. It makes such a difference to those feeling isolated. Sometimes it’s just nice to talk and make a new friend.”

 


If you feel you may benefit from this service or if you know of anyone who would benefit do get in touch. Also contact if you would be interested in helping provide short term telephone support to individuals who are at risk of loneliness tel: 028 66 320 230 / email: info@connectfermanagh.org. No need to feel alone, the Connect Fermanagh team are there to talk and help in any way they can. Their website for more information is www.connectfermanagh.org


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