Sue’s Story – braving connection

Sue’s Story – braving connection

I have no future

My life is pointless

My life is wasted

My past is lost

My memories have dissolved

I have no vision of a future

I have no purpose

I am obsolete

I have no meaning

I’m on the outside now

I don’t belong

I have no-one to share with

I have no-one to eat with

I have no-one to talk to

No-one to share my home with

It is no longer a home

It is an empty box

I am empty


This is what I wrote during yet another lonely and frightening night of being unable to sleep, sitting in the dark, trembling – a month or so after moving into my new property. I could not call it a home. It was just somewhere to sleep and do my washing. I had lost 47 years of my life, and had to pack up the last 10 years of it into boxes of all shapes and sizes. Because I had been lied to and betrayed and abandoned by someone whom I thought had loved and respected me, 2 days after my 65th birthday. How could I have been so stupid!?

I spent a lot of time watching old tv programmes, for their comforting familiarity. And reading trashy crime novels for their escapism.  

Most days I would go out as quickly as I could and sit by the ocean, watching and listening to the waves for hours. It was my “zen” place. The water, the sky and the sound allowed unconscious thoughts to swirl around my head and gradually clear my vision.

I knew I had to make myself do something, so I went out walking every morning. But they were very lonely walks.

My family supported me and gave me their loyalty, as did my friends. But they were all busy with their own lives as well, And I needed to be independent.

Sorting through the junk mail in my letterbox one day, I noticed a small local area info booklet. It contained several snippets of useful information, so I kept it. On leafing through it again later I noticed an article which mentioned Befriend – and that if you felt like a coffee and a chat, to go along to a local cafe at 11.30 a.m. on the following Tuesday. I didn’t think I would go, but on the day I reasoned that I could go to the cafe and see what happened – after all, I didn’t have to stay or say anything if I didn’t like the look of it. No-one would know, no-one knew me. It was a turning point. I quietly said to the staff member behind the counter that I thought there might be a meeting held there that morning. Someone on a nearby table called out to me, beckoning, and said “over here, come and sit down.” That was Caroline, who, a couple of years later, is now one of my best friends. I sat down, and during the various conversations going on, people introduced themselves to me, my coffee was brought over for me – and from that time on I had something different to look forward to. Not all were single, some married or in a partnership, and just wanted to get out and have some different company and chat. For me, it wasn’t people I had gone to school with, or who had been work colleagues.It opened up another, completely new, source of friendship, from many varied backgrounds and circumstances.


Through this regular, weekly coffee group meeting, I have made several friends with whom I have enjoyed outings and activities, sometimes going on day trips, Christmas outings, picnics, etc.  


I’m sure this has been the basis of my being able to come through such a difficult and traumatic time, and it has helped towards making a new life. It takes effort and patience and a willingness to try different things when, sometimes, you’d rather just not get out of bed in the morning.

Sharron’s Story – finding solace through storytelling

Sharron’s Story – finding solace through storytelling

Sharron’s journey is a testament to the resilience of the human spirit and the power of community. After a sudden and painful loss, Sharron found healing and connection through the Befriend community. Her involvement in the storytelling group not only provided a platform to express her emotions but also a network of friends who offered support and understanding.


About five years ago, Sharron lost her husband unexpectedly just as they were preparing to retire. Feeling isolated and alone, she found solace in writing, a hobby they both intended to pursue during their retirement. 


About one year ago, Sharron came across an ad for a Befriend writing & storytelling group. Initially, she joined for the writing aspect but soon found herself immersed in the oral storytelling as well. She explained how the reception from the group encouraged her to stay. “I just got such a warm welcome. And [then]as I said, they couldn’t shut me up,” Sharron remembers with a smile. 


Over time through the Befriend group, Sharron found the courage to write and tell stories about her past memories, even ones she had long forgotten. She says the writing exercises helped her process some of her significant life experiences. “It gives me the courage to be able to tell things that I know I’ve got deeply buried,” Sharron shares.  She also appreciates the feedback she receives on her writing from the memoir group leader, Robert, as it helps her grow and develop as a writer.


The storytelling group at Befriend, led by Miranda, with its guided meditations and traditional tales, has become a haven for Sharron. She appreciates the bravery it takes to share personal stories within the group and is inspired by the courage of others. While many may associate storytelling with entertainment for kids, Sharron appreciates the depth and complexity of the stories they share, as well as the varied meanings each person draws from the story – like exploring different facets of a diamond.


Sharron emphasised how grateful she is for the safety and acceptance the storytelling group provides, and credits this to the hosts – Miranda, Gail, and Marie – and the culture they’ve fostered. She shares how Miranda, the host, treats everyone with equal respect and kindness. “You [could] be a homeless man and [Miranda would] still … treat that you as well as she treats the University professor.” The group has become a crucial part of Sharron’s life, boosting her social confidence and enabling her to assert herself more in daily life, to reach out and connect with others. “It’s given me the courage to speak out.”


Sharron’s story is a powerful reminder of the healing power of storytelling and the strength of community. Her journey inspires us to seek out connections and reminds us of the importance of creating safe spaces for sharing personal stories. If Sharron’s story resonates with you, and you feel ready to take those first steps into community life, check out other Befriend storytelling events and opportunities here!

Margarita’s Story – nurturing community through Befriend and beyond

Margarita’s Story – nurturing community through Befriend and beyond

Margarita’s story is one we’ve loved to watch unfold: someone who stretched out of their comfort zone to spark connection in the Befriend community and within the year, had established a self-sustaining, independent social hub in Butler. Margarita’s social group, the Befriend Butler Coffee Club, had it’s own life and culture outside of The Social Network and has gone on to flourish as a private group of friends. Today, we see a community leader and friend in Margarita who cares deeply for holding warm, safe and supportive spaces for others.


Margarita first met Befriend Community Builder Lee at a book club run by one of her friends, Caroline. Invited by Lee to share ideas for Befriend social groups, Margarita said she’d always wanted to start a coffee group. About 6 months later, Margarita phoned Lee and met up with her to bring her idea for a group to life. They settled on Tuesdays at 11:30am, weekly. About 10 people showed up for the first Coffee Club at Butler. They were all women in their sixties, looking for a social outlet.


Margarita says, “You either gel or you don’t. A group of us did.” They continued to meet weekly and grew to a regular membership of about 12-15, with usually about 10 showing up.


The group naturally evolved into being a social club for older women and over the course of a year, it began to flourish. Members would bring along their friends, and so the group gradually grew and settled into a routine of friendship, coffee and conversation. It was an informal group and they didn’t have any set agreements or guidelines but did take turns choosing the venue. Margarita and her friend Jeanette (whom she jokingly calls her unpaid secretary) kept the group organised.


According to Margarita, they had a lot of laughs together. It was a loose, open group, where members come and go according to availability. She described how she set a tone to the group that makes it very friendly and inclusive. Because of her own life experiences, she believes strongly that you can’t judge another person when you don’t know their story. To this effect, Margarita says


“Everyone’s got their own story… When we get together, sometimes if we’re peeved, we vent. It’s like therapy… there’s no judgment.”


About a year ago, the group decided to leave Befriend’s Social Network and continue meeting independently. Margarita explained this was mainly because of the numbers. “It’s hard to book a venue for more than 15… we wanted it more personal.” Ideally, they prefer between 6-10 members showing up regularly for more intimate conversation and sharing. This independence is something we wholeheartedly celebrate! As an organisation, we strive for a society where people have meaningful, deep and lasting social relationships and we’re honoured to play a small role in that lifelong journey.


When asked what difference Befriend had made in her life, she shared she now takes more responsibility for coming out and joining friendship groups. “Before I was never big on that, more family-focused.” Now, she says:


“You’ve got to get out there and meet people. Befriend has helped me be more compassionate and listen to the people who come. Befriend got me to start a group, show up and take responsibility to keep it going.”


Margarita is now a busy bee and enjoys sharing her gifts and passions with others regularly – including the Coffee Club, a meditation group, a book club and a Mahjong group. She’s also curious about the possibility of starting a writing and storytelling group with Befriend’s help to find a venue and interested members to participate.


Margarita’s story is one that reminds us to be brave enough to seek out human connection and community, and with care and a helping hand, we can nurture warm and supportive spaces for belonging. Thanks to Margarita for sharing her story with us and if it’s left you curious about becoming a host, and taking those first tenative, supported steps into community life, then get in touch, if and when you’re ready. We’ll be here when you need us!

Elizabeth’s Story – the power of sharing

Elizabeth’s Story – the power of sharing

This is Elizabeth’s story, written by community dreamer, weaver, writer, story-teller and Befriend staff member, Nicola. It’s a story of generosity, of sharing, of caring deeply about others, and of contribution. It’s also a wonderful reminder that from small connections, big ripples effects can flow.


It was a rainy afternoon in Mandurah, but this didn’t stop a small group of locals showing up for an inspiring, impromptu talk at Befriend’s Communi-Tea event, hosted and organised by Community Builder Charmaine Prinz. Elizabeth Oxley, a Mandurah resident who grew up in the Cook Islands, is a colourful character with long dreadlocks, woven with silver and earthy-coloured threads and wires. I was struck by her radiance, her kind smile and the sparkle of laughter in her eyes… even before I realised she was the guest speaker for the day.


Elizabeth volunteers with Feed it Forward, a non-profit group that collects unused perishable food that’s reached its use-by-date from supermarkets around Western Australia. The food is redistributed throughout WA communities to those in need, no questions asked. Last month alone, they redistributed 14,000 tonnes of food to over 435,000 people, from Midland to Mandurah to Kalgoorlie. Elizabeth told us, beaming with delight, “It’s the best job I’ve ever had… and I don’t get paid.”


Elizabeth and a fellow community member

Elizabeth (pictured left) and a fellow community member at Community-Tea in September. Photo credit: Claire Sadler, Journalist at the Mandurah Mail


Feed it Forward was started by a group called Nans on a Mission, inspired by a similar initiative in New Zealand. Elizabeth explained that volunteers co-ordinate themselves and create their own networks in each area. Some distribute food from their homes; others, like Elizabeth, travel around their local area to pre-arranged drop-off points. Anyone can contact Elizabeth via Facebook Messenger to arrange a time and place for a pick-up in Mandurah. Three times a week, she delivers fresh food to skate parks, car parks, and peoples’ homes. “I’ve never had anybody say no.”


One of her most uplifting moments was when she gave food to a couple of young girls who asked what she was doing, how she did it and why. At the end of the conversation one of them told her, “I’m going to do what you do when I grow up!” And Elizabeth called out to them as they left, “Don’t forget that you’re queens!” Sharing words of encouragement and wisdom is an extra gift that Elizabeth throws in whenever she can.


“We’re human. We all eat. It goes in one end, and it comes out the other. There’s no guilt in accepting free food. No one is in charge of anyone. We all need to eat, and food is a life source. I call it sharing the love.”


As a long-term foster mother, Elizabeth is no stranger to suffering and trauma, and she’s seen how relentlessly these can show up in some people’s lives. “Trauma doesn’t stand down,” she told us. Like Befriend, Feed it Forward doesn’t discriminate between those who need help and those who don’t. Everyone is included. Everyone needs to feel loved and nourished. 


Community-Tea group all together

Members of the Community-Tea group in Mandurah (plus a cute little pooch!) with Elizabeth in the middle. Photo credit: Claire Sadler, Journalist at the Mandurah Mail


This was my first time attending a Communi-Tea in Mandurah and I was touched and awed by how quickly the group of 10 rallied around Elizabeth. They were so inspired by her kindness and the difference she was making in their community that they wanted to know how to help. One regular member, Peter, offered to host a drop-off and pick-up point outside the local library and to liaise with Orange Sky who have a mobile laundering service for the homeless. Another member offered to collect food for a large family she knows who struggle to make ends meet.


Together everyone shared ideas about how more could be done for those who are homeless, at risk, or struggling to make ends meet. Elizabeth told the group how she and her husband would always buy a meal for a homeless person when they went out on dates to Perth. Once she asked a homeless man, “Honey, would you like a burger?” He responded with the utmost amazement, “You’ve seen me!” She told us she’d discovered one of the most painful things about being homeless is not feeling seen.


If you’d like to find out more about Feed it Forward, please join their Facebook group. They’re always looking for more volunteers and are a registered Public Benevolent Institution. Their charity “is focussed on giving food without question and restrictions (e.g. health care card, pension card etc)…E.G. No questions asked and No Judgement given.” 


Contact Charmaine at Befriend if you’d like to come along to Befriend’s weekly Communi-Tea at Frasers’ Landing Sale Centre on a Thursday afternoon. A place where friendships spark, guest speakers inspire, and our community grows stronger and kinder together.


What resonates in this story for you? Are there any gifts or qualities you see in Elizabeth that you recognise in yourself?

A flourishing community is built on all kinds of contributions – everyday people generously offering small pieces of themselves to make the world around us kinder, more inclusive, more welcoming space to work and play. If you’re curious about how you can nurture community life here in Perth, then give us a call on the usual numbers to see if we can support you to bring people together.

Nicola’s Story – connecting to yourself, and others

Nicola’s Story – connecting to yourself, and others

Meet Nicola. Nicola has been a Host with Befriend for a little over a year. But the journey that led her to the Befriend community began long before that, as she discovered the power of oral storytelling as a medium for bringing people together and for unlocking inner wisdom. Now, she shares her passions with her local community, inviting people to walk their own path towards oral storytelling, and discover more about themselves and the world along the way. This is Nicola’s tale.


August 2020, post-lockdown. I was eager to connect with real “3D” people in person. Through Facebook, I heard of a Ukulele meetup at the community centre around the corner, so I dusted off my baritone uke and showed up. During tea break (a banquet of home-made cakes, biscuits and snacks), I caught up with Befriend Community Builder, Inger Ward. This was the first I’d heard of Befriend. When she explained how they help people share their passions and skills, I had a brilliant idea!


Backtrack a couple of years, and my husband and I spent a few days in Orkney, one of Scotland’s Northern Isles. A place where many of my ancestors lived centuries ago. On our last evening we visited a local storytelling centre for some “peatfire tales”. Something magical happened that night as I sat entranced by Lynn Barbour’s performances of old tales of the Selkies and Finn people. I felt a sense of deep recognition, a current of electricity that ran through my bones, as if reminding me of something precious lost long ago. As a child, I’d read widely and written many a fairy tale of my own. In my twenties, I’d dabbled in the art of storytelling as a healing art, but given up through lack of confidence.


In one of those epic life circles, almost thirty years later, I remembered and felt the calling I’d known as a child and a young woman—not only to write stories, but to share them through the oral storytelling tradition—in circles, around fires, and in forests. These old Orkney tales fed a very particular kind of hunger in me—as watching a movie or reading a book had never done. In some sense, I realised I was starving for stories.


I returned to Australia on fire, and in 2019 designed and ran a nine-month oral storyteller development project in Denmark, WA, with theatre director Silvia Lehmann. In 2020, I went to the UK to study storytelling at Emerson College for a 13-week journey of transformation and discovery. Even though I had to finish the course online due to Covid, the experience confirmed and informed my passion to help revive the art of oral storytelling in Western Australia—not as a performance art, but as a family and community practice.


So the day I met Inger and heard about Befriend, I knew I’d found the next step in my storytelling journey: a way to share my passion locally via sessions that were accessible, free and fun. So began our weekly sessions at the Koorliny Arts Centre on Tuesday mornings. This year, drama teacher Miranda Santalucia joined me as co-host and began threading more dramatic play and improvised fun into our sessions.


Nicola's story mat

Nicola carefully and thoughtfully sets the scene for a community story


I’ve watched our members grow in confidence, not only as storytellers, but socially, as they rediscover the wisdom, richness and depth of the old tales and how these help us make sense of our lives. I’ve seen them overcome shyness and self-doubt to embrace the oral storytelling tradition. Week after week, they put aside their papers and books to tell original and traditional stories by heart, in their own words. It’s not about memorising and performing perfectly; it’s about being yourself and having a go.


If you are interested in starting a storytelling circle in your area, please get in touch with me at Befriend where I am now a Thinking Partner and Community Story Weaver. In future, I plan to run a series of workshops and mentoring programs for applied storytelling in the community arena. Email me to register your interest () or find out more.


Sharing stories in safe, supportive circles is, in my experience, one of the best ways to make deep, true friendships and to discover our inner wisdom and gifts.


“… sometimes we need a story more than food.
Certainly, there are times we need to hear a story to heal our souls. But there are also times we need to tell one”.


– Erica Lann-Clark, The Healing Heart Communities: Storytelling to build strong and healthy communities


As you read Nicola’s story, what has it left you thinking about? Is there something in your life that brings you joy that you could share with others? If there is, and you’d like a friendly ear to talk it through, then reach out to someone on the team. We’d be happy to support you!