Stories of Connection

Impact Evaluation is an important aspect of the work that we do, to understand the impact that Befriend is having on individuals and communities, learn from our collective experiences, and identify the things that are working well (as well as the things that aren't working so well).

Befriend uses a robust mixed-methods evaluation framework to guide our approach to evaluating impact. In simple terms, that means that we count the things that can be counted, as well as talking to people to learn from their experiences.

Befriend works in partnership with researchers and tertiary institutions to advance the collective conversation regarding how to support social connectedness. Below are a sample of 'stories of connection' that individuals have generously shared, so that we can all learn from their experiences and perspectives.

Contact us to learn more about the impact of initiatives that we have supported.

I think the confidence and being around lots of other people

"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."

Befriend Social Network Host

Befriend Social Network - I used to be really hard to be approached

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.

Befriend Professional Development - I’m better at making sure that everyone feels heard

I [was] working at [service provider], which is where I still work now....One of the people that I worked with was a young person in their… early 20s who had an intellectual disability and they wanted to make some more friends because they lived at home with their family. So my coordinator suggested that I take them to Befriend, so that is what I did and that was my first involvement with Befriend.

I was just going there for work, I didn't really expect to enjoy it but then I did. Then I was like oh wow, apart from whatever the benefits of this organisation are to my client, I really like this organisation. I get a lot out of it. So then I started to gradually go to a few more Befriend events outside of work. Then from there I started to volunteer to host Befriend events as well. Because it was such a friendly community and there were so many great people there, you just get addicted, you keep going to it.

I am a naturally shy and introverted person. In social situations my default setting is to not talk. I find it hard to say hi…how are you? What's your name? Or just to talk with people that I [don’t] know very well. While I was out and about on the street going to the shops or whatever I would make a point not to really talk to the people who were serving me food or putting my groceries in a bag or whatever.

After coming and being involved with Befriend I feel more comfortable in social situations. I am better at interacting with people. I feel less nervous interacting with people, I am better able to interact with people in a way that makes them feel included and happy and welcome. Those skills and that awareness came about as a result of attending Befriend events. Just to be clear…I still find it difficult but I find it much easier now than I did before.

I'm better at listening to people when they talk and also not just being a better listener but say if there were four people sitting around, I'm better at making sure that everyone feels heard. If there's one person who I can see is not contributing much to the conversation but I feel like they have something to say I will make a point to ask them a question or divert the conversation in a way that includes them. As a result of Befriend I am more aware of how my actions affect other people and I can do small things to make people feel more included or make their day a bit better.

I think the most significant change is that I am noticeably better at interacting with, talking to and including other people. [That is the most significant change for me because] no matter what you do in life, one of the constant things is that you're going to have to interact with people. Being a part of an organisation that makes me feel more comfortable interacting with people it makes me … feel better at doing that. That is something that is going to improve my whole life for the rest of my life, every day. I'm going to make more friends who I would have never met, even outside of the Befriend context just because I feel more comfortable talking to people and that is something that I have already started to do.

Befriend Social Network - I Think it's Working

[Befriend] came by our office … a few times. I thought I should give them a try because I thought it would be fun to do some events I've been going to a few of their events for a few months now…. I felt like my social conversational skills could probably use some improvement, because I am mainly in my own disability community with a lot of blind people. I thought it would be a good place to work on that. [I’ve been] going to dinners, attending some of their classes. They have an event down in Fremantle that's a sing-along that I go to each month. It just really depends what looks interesting in the month, I'll sign up and do it if I'm interested.

I'm starting to meet some people. Some people recognise me at different events…. I'm glad that's started to happen and I'm talking to people, people know who I am and I know who they are, so it's good…. I've been recognised quite a bit at the musical event where we do the singing and people seem to know me and say how's it going, how's your month been and all that, which is nice.

[I’m] doing activities that interest me, with other people. It's very nice that they are just very friendly. The host is usually happy to meet at venues .. or helps out if I need to get somewhere…. I got my husband to come along to a couple of the Befriend events, which he enjoyed. He doesn't get out of the house too much.

Befriend offers the informal disability support needed to [network]. So you know that you can go to their events and that the host will be happy to read the menu for you, or help you get up to the counter or checkout and all that.

[The most significant change for me is] … being able to more easily talk to new people that I meet. [This was significant because] If I can talk to people more easily, then I guess I can expand my network and meet more people and possibly become friends with the people that are interesting… I think it's working, I think I'm able to now have better conversations than I could before … when I go to real networking events I can actually have conversations.

That’s the key to life really, is to have social connection

I joined Befriend in July of 2013. I volunteered as a project development officer…. I volunteered up until about June 2014. I stopped volunteering for Befriend because I then got involved in TEDxPerth. That was taking up more of my time so I didn’t sustain volunteering for both organisations.

I [had] a lack of social connection because…the problem that I had with my life was that I didn’t diversify my life beyond my work and academic studies. My social connections were definitely not as strong… because once you're in the workforce it's pretty hard to develop other circles. I needed to find platforms and ways of meeting new people and developing connections. My problem was that I was still battling mental health in those early years and looking for different ways to making social connections. In December 2010 I survived a suicide attempt, but it was through involvement of groups like Befriend that gave me meaning in my life that I didn’t have prior to this attempt on my life.

Now….I've got myself in so many social circles - Befriend being one of them, TEDxPerth - I could probably name like 30 different circles in my life now because I've joined up to various things. I've made friendships and connections. I can always bump into them at a certain time and see what they're up to. I feel like I'm never alone. If I'm ever struggling someone will come out and chat to you. So it's good to know that you’ve got that support, even though you might not see them on a day-to-day basis. I feel like Befriend was that first platform where I could develop relationships with people on a quality type basis that wasn’t my high school and uni circle.

I think social connection would definitely be the [most significant change because] it’s the one [thing] that makes you, ultimately, the happiest. I mean money comes and goes, but connection with people, that doesn’t go. …. So I think the key to life really, is to have social connection, that's ultimately what makes you happy and makes you healthier.

Knowing that you're never alone with Befriend

I moved back to Perth in March this year which was about, what, six months ago… My parents and my brothers and my nephew are here. I know some people because I went to school here. But a lot of them have sort of moved on and I wouldn't really class them as really close friends.

So I joined some dance classes, I did some other activities … Trying to make friends as an adult is really challenging because a lot of the time people have their friend sets, especially in Perth. People over the east are much more open to having friends, like new friends - whereas Perth, trying to make new friends as an adult is really hard. So … that's…why I did the Befriend thing.

I found out about Befriend … and then just decided to go along. There was a barn dance. I like dancing. …That was my first introduction. Because I like dancing and it seemed like a fairly social, but not intimidating event to attend. From that I met a couple of people, formed a couple of good friendships… and since then have gone through and attended a few other events. Not as many as I'd like, only because of work schedules and because of where I'm living.

I'm fairly confident. I don't have many troubles walking up to people and having a conversation. If I were to go out dancing to say, the Mustang Bar I would just start to talk to people, but it's a little bit different. If you want to say, ‘let's catch up for a coffee another time’, they might not be open to that whereas Befriend you kind of know that people are going to be friendly and you'll have someone to talk to. That was kind of the reason I went… just to meet some new people and try something different.

I kind of feel a bit more confident knowing that if I'm at a loss for something to do and I feel a bit lonely… there's probably an event on…Sometimes [A Befriend member] might invite me to something and she'll bring some of her other friends … or I'll invite her out and …bring some of my friends along or there's a couple of other people from Befriend who have turned up as well and that's nice. So yeah, it's just knowing that you're never alone.

[The most significant change is] I have new friends. [I’m] meeting people who are open to having new friends... because it's not something to be sniffed at when you've only got a handful. I don't have large groups of friends, but I do value the individual relationships that I have. What do I value about having new friends? Different perspectives… You always learn something different from each person I guess.

Feeling accepted and more tolerant of others

[I got involved with Befriend] for my daughter's benefit. She has a mild intellectual disability - doesn't quite fit comfortably into one box or the other in society. So it was a way of her socialising with different people other than just small groups of people that have an intellectual disability.

[We go to] mostly to their outdoor [events]. Their sausage sizzles in the park, type of thing, concerts in the park, a couple of quiz nights. [My daughter] is passionate about the Befriend Ball. That's the highlight of her year. I like to go to ones where I can mix and mingle rather than sit down dinners.

I think the idea is … to grow people and that's what I liked about it in the beginning. That it wasn't like you've got a disability and we're going to make sure you get there okay and.. ..you get home okay. It was allowing people to step out of their comfort zone a little. The other side of it, she's actually probably learnt to accept other people a little bit better too. She has been quite judgmental in the past - so I think she's learnt to be a little bit more tolerant of others.

I think where it has helped [my daughter] is feeling accepted. As I said, particularly at the Befriend Ball, she had never been to a ball before and for her to get dressed up and go somewhere, even if she only goes to that event and that's the only event in the year, it just makes her feel really special. What I like most about attending Befriend events, is the variety of people there. It makes me feel like maybe I haven't got one foot in the grave. That I've still got something to contribute and just because I might be two generations away or whatever, [I’ve still] got some value in the community.

[The most significant change] for [my daughter] I think it certainly has stretched her confidence in attending things that aren’t supervised, like going to Disability Services funded events where you're picked up in a bus and off you go and everything is organised and you don't have a choice where you go or what you do. I think it's made her more confident…. I've noticed a change in her which I think translates to the fact she probably feels more part of the community. For me I guess it just has stretched me out of my comfort zone a little bit... but made me more satisfied being out of my comfort zone…

[This is significant because] it’s given me a new interest I guess. I had recently retired. You sort of feel a bit redundant and facing retirement, what have you got to do, what does life hold? So by being involved… it just gave me a new interest. It encouraged me to do different things in the community, be involved, not just… wait for things to happen, if that makes sense.

Befriend is a place where you can go and be yourself

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.

Befriend gave me something a bit more to look forward to

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

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

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

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.