Jane has grey hair and a raincoat- she is standing outside by some plants, overlooking the sea. She is smiling at the camera.

Jane has volunteered with Aphasia Re-Connect since 2017, and particularly supported the development of more virtual befriending during the pandemic – this is her experience:

I worked as a speech and language therapist for nearly 40 years. Volunteering with Aphasia Re-Connect seemed an obvious thing to do when I stopped working full time in 2017. I have so enjoyed working with new and old friends, through 2018 and 2019 with a particular highlight being the project at Ark Walworth Academy in 2019 which many of you will remember.

But then along came 2020, the pandemic, lockdown and huge change to the programmes, projects and groups that Aphasia Re-Connect was running.

I wanted to support the change and so I offered my time and experience to the organisation. Together with others, I set up and maintained the network of phone and zoom buddies for 70 plus people. Volunteers and students made weekly phone calls to the people who would normally be attending the numerous groups. We also kept a WhatsApp group going with cheering messages, music, thoughts, and jokes.

It was such a pleasure to see friendships and learning opportunities grow as students and others made the commitment to contact people with aphasia regularly. And to see how people were able to adapt to using zoom, skype, text, whatsapp messages with the patient and expert support of others within the team (thank you Lin, thank you Sophie!).  In the end we were able to provide weekly contact to over 100 people. To build rapport with someone you need to dive deep into the activities that are meaningful to each of you and from what I was told, there were conversations on how to make the best pilau rice, how to mend china plates, and the best London rap music.

I was lucky enough to have the chance of evaluating the impact on the people who took part in them. A few quotes showed me how worthwhile the support was and underlined how such projects are mutually supportive for the volunteer who made the phone calls and the participants with aphasia who received them:

a time of mutual encouragement during a difficult time

always things in common with another person because we are all human beings living in the same world

As we move into another year of uncertainty I feel so lucky to be part of this amazing network of supporters and friends.

Find out more about volunteering or email us at info@aphasiareconnect.org