Volunteer Story of the Month - March 2024

This month we hear from two women about the effect befriending has had on their lives, in the lead up to International Women’s Day this month.

Sutton Befrienders provide volunteer befrienders, buddies and run sociable groups and activities to help reduce social isolation, loneliness and promote wellbeing.

Irene's volunteering story

Irene standing by a wall smiling

You might recognise Irene from this story when she met Ellie Simmonds.

1. What's your name and what volunteering do you do now?

My name is Irene Amarasekera and I currently volunteer for the London Borough of Sutton as a befriender. The volunteer befriender role entails offering supportive reliable relationships to those who are lonely, low in spirit and/or feel socially isolated. We arrange weekly meetings where we encourage our befriender to open up and discuss their issues if they so wish and we in return show empathy as well as suggest a range of activities to increase their self-esteem and self-confidence and thereby reduce social isolation.


2. Any volunteering you've done in the past?

I did a Mentoring Training course and following this, I mentored a young girl for a year in providing her with a new direction in life and building her self confidence. Following this experience, I then started as a 'Befriender Volunteer' and to date have worked with four different people.


3. What got you interested in volunteering?

I have an inbuilt desire to help those in need, whether it be children or the elderly. My friends and family would describe me as a chatty, considerate and a friendly person which works brilliantly for my role as a befriender. 


4. Any examples that come to mind when you really enjoyed volunteering?

I have enjoyed all my volunteering roles, each of them have been unique and have provided me with a different experience, insight and reward and I feel privileged to have been able to help & encourage others who feel isolated and bring energy to conversations.


5. Anything you'd say to anyone interested in volunteering?

I would highly recommend volunteering as it’s an extremely gratifying role, where you meet interesting individuals and are able to support them with their issues which could entail: 

  • Bring friendliness & warmth
  • Commit and be reliable 
  • Encourage and show them their value
  • Make a difference and a contribution to the local society 


Befriendee’s story


" My GP suggested I contact Sutton Befrienders as I had become very isolated during my lengthy full time role as Carer to a family member and upon her death, I had no social circle, which was vital, if I were to get back into society.

I consider myself to be gregarious and have a good sense of humour, so I was at odds with myself that I would require help and in a way I thought it was a stigma, that I had become "billy no mates."

Having contacted the Befrienders, one of the team got in touch and we met for an informal chat, over coffee. During our conversation, I learnt how the team work to match individuals together. 

I was lucky that a suggested match occurred quickly. I met my new "buddie" with a member of the team. We hit it off immediately and subsequently met each week for a couple of hours to chat, walk, have coffee and many many laughs, interspersed with serious conversations. We had a lot in common, despite having had different life paths. Age is no barrier, the team deal with young and old who find themselves at loss for company. I consider myself to be neither young nor old!!

Sutton Befrienders ask what type of person you would want to be paired with and what you want from the scheme and how it might be tailored to an individual’s requirements, if you were an avid cyclist, going out with a buddy who also enjoyed doing so.

I know that the team work diligently to match up individuals. It's important to remember that your buddy is giving up their free time, they do so voluntarily and as they are willing to meet with you, it is vital that you make the same commitment to them and adhere to it. It is give and take.

It is not an exaggeration to say that Sutton Befrienders were a much-needed lifeline at an extremely depressing and emotionally traumatic time.

They are a really friendly bunch. I am so very grateful to them for helping me find myself again."


If you would like to spend an hour of your week becoming a Sutton Befriender, then click here to express your interest and the team will contact you.

Irene mentions mentoring too, here is more information on our MAPS mentoring programme.


You can befriend in many ways, here are five other examples of befriending roles in the Borough…

  1. Community Volunteer with Age UK Sutton 
  2. Befriender- MHA Ryelands with MHA-Methodist Homes
  3. Compassionate Neighbour with St Raphaels Hospice
  4. Volunteer Walking Buddy with Sutton Vision
  5. Telephone Befriending & Supportive Listening Volunteer with Royal Marsden Hospital