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Harold and Orla - A new friendship

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by Christina Flannery

The story of Harold and Orla and how they came to meet

Like many members of the older generation, Harold (a beneficiary of MHA Live at Home’s short-term befriending scheme) was suffering from chronic loneliness and social isolation. His wife of 50 years had been moved into a care home, and he himself had recently suffered a stroke. The carers who visited
to assist him in daily tasks were often his only means of human interaction. Whilst he was occasionally taken to visit his beloved wife, Harold was still desperately lonely. He had resigned himself to sitting in his armchair, the television his only companion. He missed talking to people. 

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Orla and Harold on one of their many days out

That was until he met Orla, a volunteer befriender with the Community Support Project. Orla took it upon herself to get to know Harold, and tailored their activities accordingly: they enjoyed simple pleasures - lunch and a pint, but occasionally drifted further afield. For instance, Harold, a railway enthusiast, was delighted when Orla accompanied him to the Railway Museum in York.
 
Harold’s outlook on life began to change; he remarked that the “walls of his room have expanded” and consequently his life had enlarged. As a result of their blossoming friendship, Harold’s mental wellbeing improved significantly and he “felt good” when he knew Orla was visiting. However, it is important to emphasise that the friendship between befriender and befriendee is not one sided and can be incredibly fulfilling for the volunteer. Indeed, Orla took great pleasure in observing Harold’s progress, and commented that it was “nice to see him so happy”.
 
As a result of Harold’s progress, the short-term befriending project has now come to a natural end. Harold’s perspective has changed dramatically, he is feeling much more positive about the future and thanks to Orla’s support and encouragement, he is now a member of the Pudsey Live at Home scheme. Up until the Covid-19 lockdown, when Live at Home group activities had to be withdrawn, Harold had regularly attended the Friday lunch group, and much like his beloved ‘lunch and a pint’ with Orla, he thoroughly enjoyed the weekly pub lunch with the Wednesday group; and although he has difficulty with his speech, he was content to sit and listen when he attended these meetings.
 
Harold had been doing well and attributed his renewed positivity to his friendship with Orla, remarking that she is the best thing that has ever happened to him.  
 
Harold has felt lonely again since lockdown.  He has been matched with a telephone befriender, Heidi, who calls him three times weekly.  He has had a weekly fish and chip delivery from Pudsey scheme since mid-May and he is also included on their ‘home luncheon’, receiving a warm meal from a local pub delivered by the scheme every Thursday.  Once restrictions are lifted, Pudsey Live at Home will provide a long-term befriender and help Harold return to his favourite group.

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