We asked Libby for her reflections on how volunteering with New Bridge helped her manage the transition from busy full-time job into retirement.
"Working life had been busy, added to which, being based in London meant living away from home from Monday to Friday. However, I loved my job; managing a team that delivered a service providing 24/7 support to people with a whole host of questions, problems and challenges took up all my working week and some of my weekends. So, when retirement came along, I had spare time and energy which needed an outlet.
Retirement can be quite a challenge for many people, there seem to be various stages that can be experienced. The initial euphoria of having time to do anything or nothing, then how quickly this can pall. I certainly went through a restless phase not knowing quite what to do with myself before I reoriented and applied to New Bridge. I now feel settled as a retiree and a befriender.
While still working I’d been lucky enough to attend several of the fundraising concerts New Bridge held. Hearing from people that had used the service speak about what having a befriender meant to them was inspiring.
In this new phase of my life, I wanted to experience something different, to gain some insight into an aspect of society I hadn’t any prior knowledge of. I was keen to broaden my horizons. Becoming a befriender was always something I thought would work for me although it took me a while to apply.
I was lucky enough to complete the last “in person” training weekend before Covid and lockdown put us all into a spin. This was a great time to start befriending. I had even more time on my hands and as one of the people I was writing to said, those of us “on the out” had something in common with the group we were there to befriend. Although it was hard to really imagine lockdown conditions and the isolation experienced by people in prison.
Like so many things the reality was a bit different to how I’d imagined. I found that I wasn’t particularly interested in why the people I had contact with were “doing time”; I was more interested in their lives and the range of things they wanted to write about. I enjoyed finding topics to write about and areas of mutual interest to explore.
The people we support are as varied as people anywhere. Exchanging letters feels like going on a journey of mutual discovery. Getting to know someone takes time, the relationship evolves as both parties gain a level of comfort in writing to each other. In my experience this is very rewarding, all the other befrienders I’ve talked to say the same.
At New Bridge I had found my new community and focus. The monthly support groups the befrienders attend provided contact with people with whom I now shared a common goal. People otherwise I wouldn’t have met. The reports from each member of the group helped me to gain in confidence and I now write to four people.
I’m very grateful to New Bridge for providing me with an activity that I find very worthwhile and a new group of colleagues with whom I can share experiences and whom I can learn from. For anyone considering volunteering I highly recommend New Bridge."
If Libby has inspired you to consider volunteering then you can find out more and apply here: https://www.newbridgefoundation.org.uk/volunteer-for-us