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Matthew Appleton is a second year BSc Geography student, and a volunteer befriender for Holborn Community Association. HCA work to reduce isolation and loneliness by offering a variety of activities and services to local people.

Matthew spoke to Nick Batley and Jenny Murphy from the Volunteering Service about his experiences as a Volunteer Befriender.


To get us started, tell us a little about your volunteering. What kind of things did you do, how long did you do them for, and how often did you do them?

I volunteer for the Holborn Community Association. I’ve been volunteering with them on and off now for about a year. The project that I’ve been working on most recently is befriending, and that’s been happening since last November, so about 5 months. It’s basically just visiting an elderly person once a week, and we do want they want to do; we go on trips to Camden or go around the British Museum as two examples. We mainly work to bring up their confidence in being mobile around London

What made you want to get into this kind of volunteering?

What I was doing before with Holborn Community Association was a day centre, for elderly people – so I’d just go and volunteer and talk to people, have tea and help them with their computers and things. It’s not really strenuous, it’s more about being there and talking.

Out of the activities you’ve helped with, what do you think was the more fun?

We’re always doing things; the person I’m befriending is really into art and used to be arts lecturer. We often go to look at art shops, and I help in carrying things to help her – like a picture frame. To be fair, she’s taught me a lot about crafts and shows me a lot of tools and stuff. She’s really cool – it’s all really about helping her and talking.

The nicest thing is the friendship developed - for instance exchanging cards at Christmas and getting coffees together, makes you feel that you’ve gained a friend as well as gaining volunteering experience

Have you experienced any challenges during your volunteering?

Not really to be honest – I think depends on who you get in your befriending. The person I’m befriending is quite easy to communicate with, we can text each other when we want to see each other. We get buses to see each other, so there’s nothing really difficult.

Would you recommend this kind of opportunity to other people?

Yeah – I would. I just think that gives an opportunity very different to what you’d get in UCL, the opportunity to meet someone with a completely different age, and different perspective, or worldview. Even just listening to their history and stories from their past, it’s just really interesting and enriches your experience in living a different city, if you’re not from London.

I just find it interesting how we can live relatively close to one another but live completely different lives in what we do day to day. I also think it’s finding out something new about someone with a different perspective. At UCL, you can do a lot of clubs and society things, but you’ll always be around young people, so it’s nice to just be around, and be social with, people from a completely different age group!


If Matthew’s experiences have inspired you to get volunteering, check out our other Befriending opportunities here!  Or if something else strikes your fancy, please visit our online directory to view all the current roles we have on offer with our 400+ London-based partners!