Befriending

The Befriending Programme is an invaluable asset to MLRC as we recognise that the legal system can be alienating and difficult and frustrating to negotiate. As part of this service, volunteers are available to befriend clients in order to accompany them and provide them with emotional and practical support as they go through the difficult process of trying to assert their rights.
 

The role may entail such activities as helping the individual to fill in forms, accompanying her/him to court, helping her/him to turn up to appointments etc. Training is provided to all volunteers who also have the support of regular group meetings where peer support is provided.

Training is provided to all volunteers who also have the support of regular group meetings.

Recruitment of befrienders takes place every September.  Click here to read more on our Befriending Programme.  

If you are interested in becoming a befriender, see Volunteering.  

If you are interested in helping to sponsor our Befriending Programme, please see Support MLRC.

 

Stories

 

Befriendee’s Story 2014

I came to Ireland in 2001.  I had a very good job but unfortunately it closed down in 2008 and I lost my job.  I have 2 boys and I also need to support my mother, she is 70 years of age and when my father died she had a lot of health problems.

My eldest son unfortunately suffers from mental illness and we had a lot of problems during the years.  I would like to say special ‘thank you’ to Mercy Law organisation and especially to Sr. Caitriona and my Befriender, because they helped us a lot during the years and even at the moment they give us great support and help. They are the people who worked very hard to solve our problems.  Three times we became homeless and they helped me to find a house and also to find a way to pay the deposit.  They give me very good advice and help me to make the right decisions.  They give me the right information and they are always open to help me.

 

Befriender’s Story 2014

It is now two years since I began to befriend a women from Eastern Europe, a single mother with two children who also had to look after an ageing mother.  During that time she has been in much need of support.  Financial problems, difficulties in getting suitable accommodation, attending to the medical requirements of a regularly ill child and her only somewhat mobile mother, together with the demands imposed by her job as a nursing home care assistant have left her with neither time or money to socialise.  She requires someone with whom to discuss how to improve her situation and in this regard I try to help.

During my time with the befriendee, our regular phone conversations and then meetings in the company of one of the Mercy Law staff have helped to bring about some improvement in her situation, which is some reward for me and an encouragement to keep going in the face of so many obstacles.  I have also benefitted from seeing how determined the befriendee is to work hard for, and otherwise help those dependent on her – I like to think that I learn from this attitude and so now think more of the interests of others.

It must be very difficult for immigrants on their arrival in a new country to make friends of such a nature as will assist them to overcome demanding day to day living problems.  There is very much a need for the befriending service that Mercy Law provides – it is quietly satisfying to be part of a clearly efficient and effective service.

 

Befriendee's Story 2013

I went to Mercy Law and found them extremely helpful, especially their Befriending service. My Befriender  has absolutely helped over and above the call of duty with me. She has been there every step of the way from when I was at the refuge to where I am now and I don’t know what I would have done without her. Sr. Caitriona befriended and helped me out unconditionally, she was an absolute God send and bar none she is a saint and more than a friend now.

Without the whole Mercy Law Resource Centre I wouldn’t have got this far as I was at breaking point. The way they helped with all the legal and explained what I could do, as I couldn’t have got through it without them.  They helped me out of the mire that I didn’t understand and the mine field of legal jargon.  I can’t speak highly about what the Mercy Law Resource Centre does.

 

Befriender's Story 2013

My thoughts on seven years of befriending:

Having overcome the initial nerves and apprehension I have settled into my own rhythm of befriending. Due to my nomadic lifestyle I have only ever had one client, with whom I have steady, if irregular, contact.

The main support I can offer my client is when she has communication and emotional/social problems, mainly related to accommodation and its suitability for her particular needs. So far she has moved from Cork Street into Simon Sheltered Housing first in north and now in south Dublin city centre.

 My client has no family contacts at all. I know she welcomes my efforts to help her in tough times and then visit her in her bedsit, or when times are good for her we go shopping and/or lunch. Volatile might best describe my client’s personality so there is never a dull moment. There is constant flux in her life.

 My befriender’s training was truly appropriate and practical for the situations I have experienced with my client. Particularly useful was the discussion and advice in relation to boundaries, and of course the true differences between being friends and befriending. Knowing that our Coordinator is always at the end a phone is of immense value to me.

I enjoy my befriending with all its opportunities and challenges. When I ‘grow up and settle down’ I look forward to more involvement with the group and being available to attend the regularly-organised volunteer meetings.

 

Befriender's Story 2012

It  is almost two years ago since Caitriona arranged that we would both meet the young woman who had been assigned to me for befriending.  This was my initiation into the practicalities which had already been clearly explained and explored in a day’s training workshop in MLRC.  Initially I was quite nervous about this undertaking but was assured of help and support all along the way.  And in this I was not disappointed.

My “befriended” had fallen on hard times, had lost her mother in her home country and needed emotional support as she waded through many problems and disappointments. To say that she was falling apart would not be an exaggeration. In financial straits, she was unable to pay rent for her apartment outside Dublin and was subsequently evicted.  This was a period of high anxiety when she felt very much alone in the world with no family back-up and in general she felt quite abandoned.  At this time, what was needed was very practical help to move as well as to find alternative accommodation.  There were forms to be filled in, lots of careful packing to get done as well as accompanying her to welfare offices to listen to her plead her cause as she tried every possibility, but without success.

Eventually, rent-assisted accommodation was found in a rural seaside town where she is now settled but continues to have many problems and worries.  There is also great loneliness at having left a part of the country she had begun to think of as home.  But my “befriended” is resilient and has begun to work on possibilities that will hopefully lead to easier, financially secure living.  In fact, she is very pro-active and somehow finds new energy when it comes to exploring possible ways of improving her life.  However, it is an uphill struggle.  I sometimes visit her in her new home, meet her in the city and keep in touch constantly by phone.  On one occasion, I accompanied her to the Employment Appeals Tribunal where she would otherwise have been on her own on a very difficult day.

This latter was one of the many times when I was utterly embarrassed by the thanks and appreciation expressed for just being there for this lovely lady.  It has been a privilege for me to accompany her, to listen to her story, to stand in her shoes and to try to imagine what life is like for her.

I am grateful to MLRC for opening up this window of opportunity for me.  And I appreciate the invaluable back-up help and support that is always readily given by those in MLRC and in our meetings with the other Befrienders. 

 

Befriender's Story 2011

Caitriona O’Hara, Co-ordinator of the Befriending Programme, introduced me in February 2009, to my ‘befriended’, a man in his 50’s from one of the hostels for homeless men in Dublin. We had both met Caitriona separately before and understood what our relationship would be as ‘befriender’ and ‘befriended’. MLRC provide training for people interested in becoming ‘befrienders’ and I was aware of what my duties and role would be.

We had a short meeting that first day and before I left, we agreed a time and place for another meeting and so our relationship began-slowly, with caution, but it developed over time. From our initial tentative meeting, conversations grew and developed and our talks became a regular occurrence. Conversations progressed from reminisces of his past to the very real problems posed by hostel living. He started to take an interest in his personal appearance and his concerns moved to how he would move on from living in the hostel. It seemed that regular contact and a listening ear was what this man needed to get to grips with the reality of his situation.

We began having conversations about what kind of accommodation he would like to live in. He had problems that needed to be sorted out and through our discussions we were able to look at options open to him. We outlined courses of action he could follow and worked out short-term goals. I was able to assist him by writing letters, helping him with application forms and setting up doctors’ appointments. As he saw things changing, he grew in confidence and became more pro-active in dealing with his problems.

In 2010, he got the wonderful news that MLRC had, by advocating on his behalf, secured an offer of local authority accommodation. Through donations from friends and colleagues we managed to gather the basic furnishings and household essentials together and with great excitement he moved into his own place. For the first time in my time meetings with him, I heard him singing as he made me a cup of tea in his own kitchen. He has got to know his neighbours and has established relationships with them, which have continued to grow and develop. He developed a more positive attitude to life and he found that there were groups he could join and places he could visit such as the local Civic Centre or the Library.

My involvement in the MLRC Befriending Programme has benefited me as much as it has my ‘befriended’. We have taken ‘the road less travelled’ and that has made all the difference. It has shown me that little things can sometimes make all the difference and having a non-judgemental, listening ear can bring a person to a clarity that may not have otherwise been perceived.”

 

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  • 25 Cork St, Dublin 8, Ireland. 
  • Phone: +353 1 4537459
  • Fax: +353 1 4537455
  • Email: info@mercylaw.ie