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!