Westminster Befriend a Family

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November Volunteer of the Month: Ali

A bit about Ali and his mentee Joseph.

Ali, 27, has been mentoring 17 year-old Joseph (not his real name), for five months. As one of Westminster Befriend a Family’s volunteers he plays a crucial role in helping Joe realise his potential. Joe doesn’t have his parents around, only his siblings. His family has been fractured and his background has been severely coloured by the whole experience.

What was Ali’s biggest challenge?

At first, Joe’s experiences made it hard for him to trust people, said Ali. “When I first met him, Joe found it very difficult to find the right words when trying to explain himself. He wasn’t doing anything with his life. He wasn’t in education, he wasn’t working. He never took anything seriously and, at such a young age, he had kind of given up on life. His background has been very difficult and I would say he was a bit ‘broken’ in a way. But soon he began to trust me and we developed a connection.”

What was the result of making that connection?

“Now, he’s taking things a little more seriously,” said Ali. “He enrolled in and is going to college, so he’s getting up and out of the house, at least. He’s able to explain himself more clearly and he’s grown in confidence. And while it’s still too soon to see where he is headed – there will be time for him to work that out later – he’s much more optimistic about his future than he was.”

How has mentoring Joe helped Ali?

Ali’s own life has benefited from his mentoring, too. Even though he has completed his studies in architecture and an internship at an architecture and design company, Ali still wasn’t sure of his abilities to be a mentor and to communicate clearly.

He said: “Now I feel I am a much better communicator. I am more confident in my abilities to show Joe, or any young person, a way forward than I was when I started. In the beginning I didn’t know whether what I was doing with him was helping or not. Five months on I see that my methods are working and that has made me much more certain of myself.”

More about our mentoring scheme

Westminster Befriend a Family’s mentoring and befriending programmes only last for six months at a time during which volunteers spend two to three hours on the same day every week building trust and lending their support. This way, families get the support they need while they take crucial steps forward. However, they are also given the space to manage their own future and become more self-reliant.

What’s next for Ali?

When Ali finishes his time with Joe, he’s considering being a mentor for another vulnerable young person, referred to Westminster Befriend a Family, who is in much need of support.

From all of us at Westminster Befriend a Family, thank you Ali for all your hard work and continued commitment to helping support vulnerable families in Westminster.

If you’d like to volunteer click www.befriendafamily.co.uk/volunteer-8/ and find out more.

Our own Marathon Man

Well done Tom for completing your first 20km training run

We’re always very grateful when anyone decides to raise money for Westminster Befriend a Family. So we’re extremely pleased to announce that Tom Hutchinson, a Director at The Change Group, a luxury hospitality recruitment agency, has decided to run the London Marathon in April 2019 to help support vulnerable families in Westminster.

He chose us, he says, because one of his friends is a trustee of the charity and naturally recommended us, but also because he now has the opportunity to run a marathon and tick it off his bucket list.

Bucket List

“I’m 38 and I’m not getting any younger. Running a marathon is one of the things I’ve always wanted to do … that and swim the English Channel. We now have a young son so it’s difficult fitting swimming into our busy lives but I can go running two or three times a week. So, if I’m going to run a marathon I’ve got to do it sooner rather than later,” he says.

“One of my friends ran the London Marathon last year and loved it. I like doing exercise. I’ve done a 5k run and a 10k run so now I want to push myself to the next level and run a marathon. It always helps to have a focus.”

Tom will be joined by his work colleague Tom Dukinfield and friend Tim Lopez. “I’m not training with them at the moment,” he says, “as we’re all at different levels. Tom has just started running, I started my marathon training three months ago and Tim is way ahead of us both having run the marathon last year.”

Training Regime

Instead our man Tom is doing two short runs a week of 5-6km and pushing himself at the weekends doing up to 17km. “A marathon is about 44km so once I get to the half marathon stage, which should take me a couple of hours, I’ll stick there for a few months before going for the full marathon,” he says.

Sore feet? There’s a lot more training to go yet!

If you want to support Tom in his efforts please click: uk.virginmoneygiving.com/TomHutchinson6 and give whatever you can afford. Thank you.

Ana’s Story

After moving to the UK three years ago with her husband and children Ana started to experience severe isolation.

Ana’s husband moved their family to London three years ago, Ana did not want to leave her country but she went because her husband wanted her to. Her husband controlled every aspect of her life. Ana was not allowed any money of her own to care for the children or herself as her husband believed he was providing them with enough. Having no money or freedom left her unable to leave the house or provide activities for the children, Ana felt isolated and unable to cope as a mother in this new country where she did not know anybody.

Ana’s family was referred to Westminster Befriend a Family by a social worker. They were allocated a family befriender, Suzie, who over time built trust with Ana and helped her to deal with her problems. Suzie met with the family every week for two or three hours. During this time she would play with the children and Ana as well as helping Ana help her children with their homework. Ana’s whole family was also able to share their concerns with Suzie and to build a trusting relationship.

Once Ana and her family had begun to adjust to a new cultural environment, Ana began to attend the parent support group (coffee morning) every week and began making friends and opening up about her situation to them. This was the first group of friends Ana had made in the UK and she was grateful for the understanding support that she received from them. Their friendship has developed a lot since Ana first began the weekly support groups and she now meets with other mothers from the group regularly to carry out activities like their weekly food shops.

The children engaged in weekly community-based activities, which gave them the chance to make friends too. Swimming lessons have provided a safe haven for Ana and her children to interact with others alleviating some of the isolation of their home life. Ana is insistent that Westminster Befriend a Family and the other participant families have become her family’s community.

Please note: we have used stock photography and changed the names to protect the identities of our families.

Look Out for Our Fantastic AUCTION

Tuesday 9 October 2018

Look out for this year’s fantastic charity auction raising money for Westminster Befriend a Family and hosted by our friends at Forster Chase. The auction takes place at the M Restaurant, 60 Threadneedle Street, London EC2R 8AY.

Forster Chase specialises in the global life and pensions market as well as protection and healthcare, and has very kindly chosen to support Westminster Befriend a Family, as one of two charities, with the proceeds from its annual charity fundraiser and city networking event.

Great, great prizes

Some of the great prizes on offer include:

  • Three-ball golf at the Royal Mid Surrey Golf Club
  • A three-course meal for two, including a glass of prosecco on arrival and a bottle of wine with the meal at Fescobaldi in Mayfair, and
  • A meal for two with wine at Tibits vegetarian restaurant in Mayfair

And two of the bigger prizes up for grabs include:

  • FOUR executive seats at the Manchester United vs Chelsea game on 27 April, 2019

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And FOUR-ball golf at Queenswood Golf Club, including caddies and lunch.

 

 

Even if you know nothing of football, you’ll know that Man Utd and Chelsea are two of the biggest clubs in the world and match tickets are extremely hard to come by, more so if they are tickets for executive seats. While Queenswood Golf Club, in Ottershaw near Chertsey, is one of the most exclusive clubs in the country.

Alongside the auction will be a raffle with more prizes available, such as a tour of the Denbies Vineyard in Dorking, Surrey; three NOW TV sticks with passes; tickets for the Comedy Store and a tour for four of Fullers Brewery.

So come and join us for some great music, drinks, nibbles, a raffle and a charity auction and have a fabulous evening of good humour and revelry. www.mwinestore.co.uk/shop/forster-chase-at-m-restaurant. See the invitation: Invitation 091018 WBAF

 

Community Really Does Matter

Blanka, her husband and their three young children have lived in temporary accommodation for almost nine years. They’ve experienced many difficulties living like this, not least of which is the overcrowding and safety concerns. But for Blanka more challenging still was the simple lack of community.

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Family life suffers when there’s no community

She and her family found it hard to form a strong social network with other families on the estate. New families were always moving in and out, and the high turnover made it almost impossible to sustain any kind of friendship and develop a community spirit.

This is in stark contrast to the community Blanka experienced while growing up in her native Poland, where children would be in and out of each others homes, run around and play together while their parents could socialised, take a break and get whatever help and advice they needed. Blanka became more and more concerned that her young family were missing out and would never get to enjoy the benefits of a strong community and she was keen to turn this around.

 

Creating strong community bonds

Through her involvement with Westminster Befriend a Family (WBAF), Blanka was able to slowly create that strong community bond she so craved. By taking part in many WBAF programmes, such as the twice-weekly mothers’ coffee mornings, the annual family Christmas party and the occasional special family fun day out, Blanka got to see the same families on a regular basis and build close friendships with other mothers in similar situations to herself.

Westminster Befriend a Family was also able to help her find regular swimming lessons for her children, which as well as helping them overcome their fear of the water, increased their self-confidence and helped them find and make friends with other local children.

 

“I feel blessed”

Supporting Blanka over the years has helped her find the confidence to alleviate the isolating home life her family was experiencing. “Westminster Befriend a Family and the other families supported by the charity have truly become my community and the community for my family,” she said. “I really do feel exceptionally blessed.”

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