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RAF charity aiming to tackle loneliness through befriending scheme

PUBLISHED: 17:06 24 September 2018 | UPDATED: 08:14 25 September 2018

An RAF charity is aiming to tackle loneliness in Bury St Edmunds and Stowmarket Picture: HEIDI BURTON

An RAF charity is aiming to tackle loneliness in Bury St Edmunds and Stowmarket Picture: HEIDI BURTON

Heidi Burton ABIPP

A military charity is aiming to tackle loneliness in the Bury St Edmunds and Stowmarket area and is encouraging ex-RAF personnel to get in touch if they are feeling isolated.

The Royal Air Forces Association provides welfare support to serving and ex-RAF personnel and their dependents and the charity has teams of dedicated befrienders, who work to support people across the UK.

The befrienders pay regular visits to their befriendees, giving them someone to talk to and look forward to seeing, and time is often spent reminiscing about life in the RAF.

The charity says it understands that loneliness, which can often occur as the result of losing a loved one or moving into a new home, can quickly lead to feelings of isolation and even depression, particularly among older people.

Volunteers are able to provide support to befriendees in re-establishing old connections or forming new ones with people in their area, helping to establish a wider group of friends.

In 2017 alone, the association responded to hundreds of appeals for befriending support, and the charity’s director of welfare and policy, Rory O’Connor, hopes people in the Bury St Edmunds and Stowmarket area will benefit.

He said: “We know, from Office for National Statistics data, that 5% of adults in England last year reported feeling lonely ‘often’ or ‘always’.

“Single or widowed people are at particular risk of experiencing loneliness more often, and we know that elderly people with reduced mobility can be hard-hit.

“Feelings of loneliness and isolation can be a serious issue for people who served in the RAF because, when they retire, they suddenly lose the camaraderie of being part of a close-knit community of colleagues.

“Our experience shows that our befriending scheme benefits everyone involved – our volunteers who take time out of their days love doing it, and befriendees benefit hugely from the visits.

“It’s an extremely positive and far reaching scheme which we hope will help people to live a healthier and happier life.”

Anyone serving in the RAF, or who has served, is a partner or know somebody who is feeling a little lonely can get in touch with the RAF Association during the week on 0800 018 2361.

Alternatively, email welfare@rafa.org.uk or visit rafa.org.uk/befriending

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