Francis has been volunteering with the Befriending Young Refugees service since December last year. It was his interest in supporting people going through the asylum process which drew him to this role in particular. Having experience in befriending already, this project felt like an ideal way for him to put his skills to good use.
Fran puts a lot of effort into coming up with activities his young person might enjoy, as well as supporting him with more practical tasks like English activities and choosing and buying a new instrument to keep him entertained during a time where many of us are spending much more time at home.
“We do such a range of activities together – from renting city bikes and playing football in the park, to taking the train up to Balloch and eating chips on the shores of Loch Lomond. My YP really loves hot chocolate too, so we usually try to fit that in as much as possible.”
“On this occasion, it was a beautifully sunny day, so we hired some city bikes and cycled over to Trongate where my YP purchased a piano keyboard, which would be delivered the following day. Next, we cycled across the city to Queens Park, where we got ourselves an ice cream each and then kicked a football about on the astro-turf court. As my young person loves anything football related and likes being outside, I’ve discovered these are the kinds of meet-ups that he enjoys the most.”
Throughout lockdown, Fran and his young person remained in weekly contact over video calls. Fran was very creative in coming up with activities for them to do and to keep his young person engaged, including watching the football together over video call. Fran and his young person often play football in the park and have even been to a local game together so it was great that Fran found a way to continue to enjoy this shared interest during lockdown.
Fran’s efforts have clearly had a very positive impact on his young person. Several professionals in the young person’s life have commented on the big bright smile that appears across his face when asked about Fran.
“I understand befriending can be tough sometimes, for example when the match isn’t quite right, or maybe the young person is going through difficulties. However, if you’re able to dedicate the time and make some effort to understand the young person, you can both form a strong, rewarding bond and have a lot of fun whilst doing so.”
Fran also feels that he has developed new skills and experience through volunteering as a befriender, as well as practicing some pre-existing skills!
“I feel that I’ve developed special patience, as well as new methods of communication, that’s required when two people spend time together but don’t speak the same language… and learned that silence doesn’t always have to be filled. And I guess I’ve managed to dredge up a little Vietnamese from the depths of my memory, which has been nice.”
“I have felt very supported during my time with Aberlour, and not felt pressured into doing more than I am able to do. This is definitely one of the reasons why I am able / want to keep befriending.”