The popular TV presenter and furniture restorer has made Emily Kenward from Time To Talk Befriending a bespoke bench and it has been placed in Queen’s Park, Brighton - the place where she first carried out research with older people as a mature student studying social work at Brighton University.
Emily was one of 12 people across the country chosen to have a bench dedicated to them to celebrate the invaluable support given to the community during the Covid-19 pandemic.
She said: “Our work during the pandemic includes an increase of work in Worthing and opening our service into Adur for the first time. Without National Lottery funding, we couldn’t have extended our work into Worthing and more recently Adur.
“The bench is situated in Queens Park by the duck pond because East Brighton is where I first undertook research with older people in 2011-2012 asking them what they felt was missing from their community. Their collective response was to no longer feel invisible or alone, and for friendship, hence the foundation of the charity in 2013.
“We have a real need for volunteers to come forward in the Adur and Worthing area. If you have a heart for older people and would like to join a community which believes in the importance of human connection, the Time to Talk Befriending team would love to hear from you. Just 30 to 45 minutes of your time each week befriending an older person experiencing loneliness will make a huge difference.”
During the pandemic, the charity has supported more than 800 vulnerable elderly people thanks to its team of eight and 500 volunteers and supporters. It specialises in reaching out to the elderly and vulnerable, particularly in trying to build up support for those who have few friends or company.
Demand for the charity’s services rocketed over lockdown as many elderly people could no longer have face-to-face contact but needed provisions like food and medication.
Emily said: “The heartbreaking thing is people telling us they don’t want to be here anymore because they have no purpose and they feel so alone. But quite quickly we see people’s lives literally transform. People come to life and feel like they’re in the world again.
“These are people with an amazingly rich life history, so it feels like a privilege to be able to offer an opportunity for them to not wilt away and feel forgotten.
“The most uplifting moments are just hearing their stories. People have written in to us to say that they didn’t have any family or friends but now feel like they’re not on their own and belong to a community.”
Visit www.tttb.org.uk/volunteer or telephone 01903 898696 for more information.