Humans of Befriend

At Befriend, we believe that stories can be a powerful way of getting to know and undertand a person a little more deeply. Stories help us learn about others, learn about our differences, but also our similarities. Based on the viral 'Humans of New York' campaign, Humans of Befriend was launched in October 2016 as a way to share stories of the unique, quirky and fascinating people of the Befriend Community. Our sneaky undercover Storytelling Agents may show up unexpectedly at a Befriend gathering, and choose someone to profile as a Human of Befriend (with their permission of course!) We've also added the amazing stories we heard while Clear Horizon conducted an evaluation into the impact Befriend makes. If you've got an interesting story to share and don't want to wait to be asked, drop us a line on 0404 831 201 or email Enable JavaScript to view protected content.

I used to be really hard to be approached

Friday, September 1, 2017

I’m also an Event Host, which means I organise my own events. I think about what I need to do to make an event happen. I do lunches, and I recently done picnics in the park because now that the weather is warmer people don’t want to be cooped up inside. I try to do some outdoor things that are fairly local to where I am.

I always had trouble having to explain my hearing, because I’ve got a hearing impairment. I wasn’t shy, but I was just not up to meeting new people. Because I would meet one person, I would introduce myself, I would explain about my hearing and everything, and then I would move on to another person and I would have to repeat myself over and over again …. But now I can just walk up to someone that I don’t know and introduce myself and just talk. I find it easy to explain about my hearing, and if I hold an event of my own I get everyone together at first so I don’t have to keep saying the same thing over and over again.

Now I’m a lot more confident. If I’m on my own at a Befriend event, I can just approach people and talk to them if I want to. I’ve made friends, and I’ve kept in touch and we catch up. It means that I go out more often and I’m not sitting at home on my own, and it just means that I have more fun, I’m not bored.

[The most significant change was] the confidence, because like I said before, I used to be really hard to be approached because I couldn’t hear properly, but now, it’s a lot easier for me. [I’m] more independent on my own. I’ve become more people friendly and I’m easy to get on with.

*These stories were collected as part of the whole organisation evaluation undertaken by Clear Horizon Consulting. The photographs do not feature the people who took part in the interviews.

Finding myself again

Thursday, August 31, 2017

I was looking to get back out there socialising with people and I googled and Befriend popped up. I started to feel like I just didn't belong anywhere anymore and I wanted to belong again and expanding my friend circle... having fun and making new friends.

I was in domestic violence. My brother has been quite emotionally and physically and verbally abusive all my life. I was in a really dark place with depression.... The domestic violence and especially after losing a child and then cancer, I kind of felt like a broken model. I still feel like a broken model in some ways but I'm fixing myself. I started believing the negative things I was getting told. I only left the house to go to medical appointments.

It's taken 27 years but I finally broke away from that because of Befriend...I've been put down so much that I thought I deserved the cancer, I thought I deserved to have no one. I thought I deserved to sit in an empty house by myself because I wasn't worth anything.
Now I feel like I am, I'm worth the world... I've made some great friends through Befriend, event hosts and also just other members of Befriend's community. I make friends nearly every day. I am mostly doing co-hosting, just supporting anyone I can. Then hopefully this year I will start taking on the host role more and more. It's given me the confidence that I didn't think it was going to.

Now even if I don't have a medical appointment I get out of the house every day. It doesn't matter if I'm just going for a walk down to the park. I get out of the house every day. It's given me my life back... I've finally realised that I am enough. People do want to listen to what I have to say. So it wasn't just everyone else excluding me, it was me excluding myself. I've learnt that I shouldn't exclude myself because there's always someone out there that's willing to talk.

[The most significant change as a result of Befriend was] breaking away from domestic violence. Feeling that I am needed and wanted in life because I was in a really dark place ... It's got to a point now, six months down the track, and I'm not on anti-depressants anymore because just the way ...all the members and the event hosts and coordinators ... have made me feel like I'm just one person but I'm important.

[That is significant to me] because I felt like I lost myself through cancer and I'm finally getting to know ... the new person and it's really exciting and fun. I love the fact that I now have the confidence to go up and speak to anyone. I don't lock myself away anymore. I am not afraid to go sit at a café and have lunch by myself because by the end of lunch I'm normally talking to someone... I'm finally finding myself again because of that confidence and that's the main thing to me.

A place where you can go and be yourself

Thursday, August 24, 2017

My involvement in Befriend came about when my friends introduced me to Befriend... The first one I went to was a barbeque... I like to go to social events like Cafe Cafe on a Saturday. That's always nice. I like to go ten-pin bowling and I like the Befriend ball that they hold each year. That's really good.

Before [Befriend], I didn't have much of a social life ... I was very shy. I didn't really want to hang with a lot of people, so I [didn’t] have a lot of friends. I [didn’t] know how to be independent. I'd still rely on my parents... Usually I [would] feel when I go to a place, like someone's judging me or I can't be who I am or they don't understand or accept me.

But since I've been going to Befriend, I also notice I've been less shy and just felt like going out, chatting, having a good time...I have learned a lot of new skills whilst being with Befriend, like making friends, how to introduce myself with confidence and being a better person to my family and everything like that. Befriend has helped me to be independent and go out ... be comfortable making new friends.

I think the confidence and being around lots of other people is the [most significant change] that Befriend's helped me with. [This is significant because] because I know I usually don't have the greatest of confidence. If I don't have confidence, then I just feel like I shut down and I don't want to be around people ... So having confidence means that I can go to an event and have a great time and get to know others and not be this person who doesn't want to go.

Something a bit more to look forward to

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

I've only been to a few [Befriend] activities. It started off with someone suggesting I join them as a way of getting me out of the house and meeting new people and just doing something out of my usual routine. It's difficult for me to meet new people. I know I am stuck in a rut.

The first ones I went to I was accompanied by someone. I think she's already a member of the Befriend group so the first couple...I met up with her and then we went to the thing. The fact of not going into them cold with someone that knew a bit about the organisation...was good, because... it was someone there that I already knew.
I've been to one of the coffee things and met some people there. I went to... a craft thing and learnt to make a dreamcatcher. That was fun. I had been wanting for ages to learn how to make them and I thought oh they're going to be hard to do, but they weren't.

I suppose I've got to learn to do things on my own. I mean I'm in my 60’s now so it's about time I started doing stuff on my own. But, yeah, it's just a little bit nerve-racking but I'm determined to do it. I was thinking of going to one [in a few weeks]...I think that'll be my first one by myself, so that'll be a test. It's like a little kid when they're learning to walk sort of thing, the first steps. They're not sure what's going to happen; whether they're going to do the step or fall down.

[The most significant change is] when I get the timetable thing... I try and plan out stuff and [it gives me] something a bit more to look forward to than just the usual daily or weekly stuff. [That is important to me because] if you don't get out of the house much you don't learn about all these sort of things that are out there for people to do. I know myself getting out decreases the boredom... I mean getting out and about and interacting with other people ... stops your brain stagnating.

Conquering challenges with growing confidence

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

I suffer from anxiety and it's something that has plagued me for a number of years. So just sort of being able to be out and in public view and not be anxious was a really big thing for me. I've been wanting to meet new people outside of my usual circles and it sounded like a really good way to do that. I was in a sort of bit of a slump in terms of feeling not so great and just wanting to do something different.

I was always very reserved. It took quite a long time before I'd sort of join in on a conversation with people I didn't know. Because - you always worry that everyone's going to be there with their friends and whether or not you'd be included. That sort of thing was hampering in my ability to function which is sort of a problem when you're in sales. I was sort of just hanging in there because it was a job.

[Now] I'm a lot more confident in talking to people that I've never met before. I've made some new friends. I guess I'm a bit more open to being myself from the outset. I'm quite happy to go to the workshops now by myself now. I feel a lot more at ease. I know what the deal is, how it works and that people are friendly. I've actually made a couple of friends through the courses as well. One particular person, we now go to the courses together. I'm better able to do that now... I'm feeling a bit more inspired about what I want to do with my life. I changed jobs.

I go through stages where I'll be fine and everything will be dandy. Then something will happen I'll just be a miserable mess for a while. [It’s a] supportive environment, even though most of the people are complete and utter strangers.

Probably the confidence to actually go out and meet new people [is the most significant change]. I think my confidence has increased significantly. It's a whole lot less isolating. [This was significant because] you don't feel as alone and broken. You sort of feel like you're fitting in again.

It was a really good way to connect with people that I wouldn't normally encounter through my daily life. I guess you could say it restored my faith in humanity.

I can speak with confidence now

Monday, August 21, 2017

I do stuff that I know that I'm going to like. Like the sweet courses... Candle making, was one of the classes. Dream catching making... and the cooking classes. So yeah, I sign up for stuff that I know that I'm going to enjoy.

[Before] I didn't really like to attend to a lot of the things because my confidence skills weren't very high. The last few years, my confidence levels have changed. [Now] when I get put into a situation that I don't know the people, I'm quite comfortable in my own way... I'm really quite chatty with people that I don't know. When I went to that woman's expo, I just started chatting to one of the [women]... I turned to this lady and just started chatting to her, and I didn't know who she was at all.

[The most significant change for me is] my confidence. [This is significant because] I wouldn't have been able to walk up to someone and say, hi, my name's [Brenda]. I can do that now... I wouldn't have been able to do that... Before I used to speak really fast because trying to get it all out. Now that I can just talk normally I don't seem to have a speech problem. That's to do with confidence. Confidence that I know that I can speak normally.

Before I didn’t even think to ask

Monday, August 21, 2017

I'm a support worker with [Organisation]. [My] first interaction with Befriend was through group training. I did two training [sessions]. Then I've been to a couple of events I can remember. The monthly meet-up in Subiaco, then I went to another one - the ball.

[The first training session] I think [was] talking about independence, talking about the four pillars. Then the second training was all about communication and assistance to people ... and tailoring your support to what they really need.

[Before Befriend] I was just running through the motions really. So I [would] meet the person ... I'm going to be working with and they usually run through what they do normally... I guess they're comfortable with the routine... I’m not sure how much they enjoy it sometimes, but I didn’t even think of asking them...
[Before] I felt like I was just kind of toeing the line and just doing the same things over and over again without direction...There was on the job training for my role but not much more than that. This is the change. [After the training] I started thinking [of asking] this person would they actually like this?

[The most significant change] I guess is that... I’m working with my guys. So I've asked point blank - is there anything I can do to help you feel more social? Do you want to go out more? Do you feel like you have enough friends in your life? Do you feel like you belong? I guess I wasn't even thinking of that before.

Yeah, so thinking of different situations that pop up like I'll take someone to a café... The owner is very welcoming and remembers his name, so that you know it's a really good place to take someone to. I guess before they're concerned mostly about prices. But I'm like ‘oh we could go to that café. That lady is really nice.’

I guess that is the most important [because] that's why I'm there - to support this person and if ... I’m not giving the full benefit ... you know it's a bit empty.

Trying new things and meeting new people

Sunday, August 20, 2017

My friend told me that she heard about [Befriend] through another friend, and that there was going to be a barbeque on Sunday. Then we went to Befriend and I had a really good time… It was more or less to meet new people, have new experiences.

I did have a bit of a social life [before] but it wasn't as good as it's been since Befriend. I'm glad that I've actually tried new things. I was.... keen to actually experience more things. I think I've been this month about two, three times. There certainly are times that I've actually gone to almost every event. They've had a fair few dog walks along the beach…I did that. It wasn't horrible but wouldn't necessarily be in a rush to do it again. I like the active ones. I have done things like tennis, I might have even done soccer once.

Sometimes I'll go with some of my friends. [It’s] always really, really cool when I can actually go with someone I know… But I'm happy to do it by myself as well. Generally, I’m a participant but I'm really, really determined to actually host an event again.... You learn a different way to interact with people. Because when you're organising you need to get everyone together, so you need to be able to talk a bit more. With hosting [there are] many things they need to do. It's just freaking amazing.

I would say generally, most of the time, it's been pretty good. I think most of [the events], for me personally, have run quite smoothly. It generally depends how receptive [people] are. If they're pretty receptive it makes it so much easier to actually talk to them.

[The most significant change for me was] learning how to host an event. Having an understanding of what hosts go through before they can actually host an event. I guess it gives me even more respect for hosts. Being a host it was a bit more difficult than I thought, but I’m glad I did it that’s for sure. [After being a host] I guess I feel more confident now that I can approach people a lot easier. Rather than before, I was a little hesitant. Still am sometimes, but not as much. It makes me feel good. Getting out of the house and going to new places and meeting new people; all that's really, really good for me. I would recommend it because it gets you out there meeting new people.

Helping clients to do what they want

Saturday, August 19, 2017

I did all the training. We have had 4 or 5 seminars now. I’ve come in a few times and sat with [a Befriend staff member] and we have gone through individual […clients], and she has suggested Befriend events.
I have been to some Befriends events with clients. We went to the BBQ and [are going on the] dog walking in a couple of weeks…The biggest barrier we face is getting people’s confidence to go to events. It takes a while to get the ball rolling and to get them going to new events. 

[The clients] love it. Everyone there has faced the same barriers that they have. [Befriend] are really welcoming. It’s all been very positive. I went to the ball in an [organisational] capacity. We took 5 clients with us. We were their date for the night. Made sure they were OK. Made sure they weren’t drinking too much.

In the [training] seminars, we focused on two customers from [the organisation]. One customer has totally changed everything. All the support workers sat down and had a big brainstorm of what we could do. Their … timetable hours have changed. She is now going to lessons twice a week. She was going to a specialised disability class and we now have her at Beatty park in an everyone-can-go, run-of-the-mill normal aquatics class. That was a big change, she loves that now. She hates the fact that she goes to things with disability. Also with that, we actually applied for extra funding and got five extra hours, so that was pretty cool. That was just from that brainstorming, of working out what she needs. 

Another client [name removed], also went to the ball, very hesitant to try new things. But now she has agreed to go to the Befriend BBQ on Sunday. That’s a big step for her. She goes to …a dancing class, only for disability clients. She doesn't like the fact that they can’t choose who she hangs out with, who she dances with. 

Before Befriend, it was very much you go in there, you do your job, and you get out. Support workers go and get a support plan…. Let’s go to the zoo, let’s go to Scitech, you do your job… Lots of supports are used for family respite …. rather than actually doing something that the client wants. So the family are pleased - take care of him for five hours. They have things they need to do. They have lives. 

So now, we think ‘what can we do in those five hours’. We find an interest that that person has, whether that's gardening or cooking, or for example cats. For one client, she loved cats….They used to just do whatever. Now they have been volunteering at the cat haven. Now she has purpose, she has a role, she is volunteering. She is hanging out with people who have similar interests. She is being an active participant in the community and volunteering in an organisation in which she loves. That just came from that one simple idea that ‘she loves cats’. 

For me, that has been the biggest thing is getting everyone in a room together to talk about one person that we all know well, and want to help, then coming up with a list of things we can do. It’s fantastic. Befriend is the one who did this. They got us together. They ran us through the framework. They said ‘What are the interests, what activities could you do for that interest’…. It wouldn't have happened if it wasn't for [Befriend]. [They have] a great framework – it’s so simple, and so good.

It has an impact on the organisation's social mission

Friday, August 18, 2017

I have a perspective from a partner organisation. But I am also a befriend member. I have been to a lot of events. I went to the choir, the quiz, the barn dance… I’ve been to a few quizzes, they were cool.
[Our organisation] is a support provider, so we support people with a disability, with serious mental health, who are older… and with the best of intentions we arguably support some of the most socially isolated people in our community.

My first contact with befriend was at our AGM, where Nick came and did a talk about what Befriend did. And I suppose at that point ..the relationship was purely financial. [The organisation] had some reserves… for a social investment fund.

[Since then] Befriend has come and done some training with our staff. I think Befriend has taken a slightly different track this time, saying that actually if we invest in the staff, help them to connect people, teach them skills. Overwhelmingly people have said it was the best training they have ever been on. It’s brilliant. They learnt lots of stuff about how to connect people. People have loved it.

[There are also] two projects that we have done [with Befriend]. They were not easy projects. There were some people who were part of that, who are really tricky, who are in and out of Graylands every other week, whose behaviour is pretty interesting at the best of times. But Befriend almost unequivocally were going to make it work. They were never going to say “it’s not for that person”. So that whole approach has an impact upon our staff. Inclusion means everybody, not just the easy people.

I suspect the training will have had a big impact. I think probably the whole experience really talks to an issue that if you don't keep highlighting it, you can just gloss over it. Our staff go and support people who live in their own homes. So you might go and support, say my Nanna, who doesn't see a soul other than you, and you see them once a week, and you do their shopping. I suppose you can quite quickly get used to it – that I’m here to support you to do your shopping once a week – but that's not good enough. It’s not good enough that woman is sitting there week-in-week-out waiting for one of our staff to get there. Without the projects around Befriend, it can easily just go away – even though we all know it is what kills people, it's the stuff that life is about. Yeah, it’s important that Nanna gets her shopping, but surely it’s more important that someone gives a s**t that she is alone. 

I think [the most significant change is] probably the people things. For individuals, but I also think for our staff. The issue I was talking about before, that we don't always get paid to think about social’s people connections, but we know it has such a big impact on people’s health, their wellbeing, their quality of life, that we to keep finding ways to support people with it. And the government are not always brilliant at funding that. As long as people have food and shelter. 

I think it has an impact on [the organisations] social mission; around we don't just exist to get people out of bed. What is the point of getting out of bed if you nothing to do or nothing to look forward to? So I think it’s another strategy of how we focus on that stuff, albeit that often it is not paid.