When retired civil servant Chris Jones signed up to become a volunteer befriender helping struggling families he was glad to have something to occupy him but he never expected it to be so rewarding.

When he left the civil service a year ago he wanted to keep himself busy,

“I wanted to be useful and I just didn’t want to be sat at home. I went on to the volunteering section of the Wiltshire Council website and looked at what opportunities there were. Home-Start South Wiltshire came up and after I looked into it I got in touch.”

After some initial training as a befriender he was placed with a family.     

“I just go in for three hours a week,” he said, “I have children of my own so I am able to bring some experience. I’m there just to lend a hand and relieve the stress, whether that is playing with the children or reading to them.” 

Sometimes the parents, owing to a variety of pressures, are reluctant to leave their homes.

I gently suggest that there’s something going on that perhaps we could go to, just to get them and the children out.” 

Sometimes that can lead him into unexpected situations.

“I once had to go shoe shopping –  that was an experience. I even managed to avoid that with my own children!”

Often his calming presence can help in other ways as well.

“Really I am there to help them in a constructive way wherever I can. Sometimes the financials are not so good and they need a hand with budgeting, sometimes they just want to talk to you. Over a period of time you gain their trust and that is vital if you really want to help. Sometimes you have to tell them something they might not want to hear and that can be difficult. You have to gently suggest they might want to do things a different way. But over a period of time you see things change and that is really rewarding. I was lucky enough to have had a very happy childhood growing up and I had a happy time with my children so I want to pass some of that on.”

The role can be exhausting but Chris enjoys the sense of satisfaction it brings.

“When you see things are getting better for a family that is great and makes you feel needed. When you get home you feel as though you’ve done something good. It is really good for me to do something useful. If anyone thought about volunteering for a role like this I’d say, don’t be scared and persevere, it is very rewarding!”

Volunteers Week, which runs until June 7, celebrates the work and dedication of the millions of people who give up their time to help others.

We would also like to take this opportunity to thank each and every one of our volunteers for all the hard work they put in, we are so grateful for you all!

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