Westminster Befriend a Family

Helping others can help you too


Helping others can help you too

About Roopa

Originally from India, 23-year-old Roopa completed a Master’s Degree in Development Studies at the London School of Economics before becoming our volunteer event organiser and fundraising intern.

Why volunteer with Westminster Befriend a Family?

“I want to pursue a career in development studies hopefully working for a not-for-profit organisation or an NGO or any organisation that works directly with development issues,” she said. “I also wanted to get some experience of how the charitable sector works here. As WBAF works with vulnerable families and young people who are socially disadvantaged and living in poverty, this charity fits very well with the kind of career I am interested in.”

What do you do here as a volunteer?

“I work in the charity’s office researching potential sponsors and donors who will help the charity continue its work. It involves lots of online research finding out information on local businesses and the contact details of the people best placed to help us. So far I have made contact with about 200 businesses, hotels, restaurants, pubs and spas etc., and I’m hoping we can build up more relationships so they can help us in any way they can, whether it’s through direct donations or by providing raffle and auction prizes.

What have you learned from your experience?

“Volunteering has been really useful for expanding and improving my research, communication and organisational skills. I’ve been meeting and talking to all kinds of different people, explaining what we do and trying to gain their support. I’ve been able to gain a lot of invaluable experience. When I go back to India, working for organisations that don’t have much in the way of resources, these skills will be of great value.”

Roopa also believes the experience has helped her grow up. “Being here, in London, without my parents or any family around, I’ve had to take care of myself.  I didn’t have any idea of how to navigate this place or about volunteering before, but now I do. It’s been like starting life from scratch at age 22. It’s made me grow up, be stronger and be much more independent,” she said.

If you would like to volunteer, make a difference and help yourself, click http://www.befriendafamily.co.uk/volunteer-8/ to find out more.


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.

boy holding hand

“Nobody has helped me like WBAF”

Sarah had deteriorating living conditions

Sarah is originally from Afghanistan. A mother of two sons, Ahmed and Abdullah, she has benefited from a range of support services from Westminster Befriend a Family (WBAF), including emotional support and help with translating and reading of documents.

Recently WBAF helped Sarah get funding for some essential household items. She had a leaky washing machine so was unable to use it, and a bed with broken slats and a mattress with protruding springs, so she regularly slept on the floor against her doctor’s advice. Deteriorating living conditions often meant sleepless nights and mounting stress, which in turn affected the well-being of her sons.

With the help of WBAF’s befriending volunteer, Sarah was able to apply for a grant to purchase a new washing machine and one new mattress, used by her eldest son. Less than she needed but hugely appreciated. It has gone a long way to reducing her stress and lifting her mood.

“Nobody has helped me like WBAF,” she said, and WBAF continues to help Sarah and her family help themselves.

Spread the goodwill! Send a text to help a Westminster family.

Help a family poster jpg version

Our Christmas text campaign poster

There’s only one more day until Christmas, and there’s still time to take a few moments out of your day to tap into the spirit of goodwill and help families in need in Westminster.

All you need to do to to get involved is text ‘WBAF15’ and your donation amount in £’s (e.g. ‘WBAF15 £3’) to 70070. We are grateful for every donation, no matter the amount. 100% will be passed onto us by Vodafone and JustTextGiving, and enable us to carry on supporting local families in poverty over the coming year. We’re running this campaign throughout December, so you can donate after Christmas as well.

Thanks to the kindness and enthusiasm of those in the Westminster community – including our local schools and venues who collaborated to bring us four wonderful Christmas Carol concerts (read about this on our blog here) – and the valuable efforts of our volunteers who donated their time to be bucket collectors and to spread the word about our text campaign, lots of people have so far donated a smile and, most importantly, practical aid to the disadvantaged children of Westminster and their families.

We strongly believe that we can do much more, but in order to do so we need your help. Please follow us on Facebook and Twitter so you will always be up to date, share our initiatives and projects with your friends and family, or help us by donating. Even the smallest amount makes a difference and can mean that a family in need gets the help they deserve  Join us in the coming year to help improve local children’s lives and give them a chance at a brighter future.

Merry Christmas and a happy New Year from everyone at WBAF!

Time is money

“Time is Money!” is a phrase that was coined (excuse the pun) by Benjamin Franklin.

It means that time is valuable and if you are not using it efficiently you are losing money.


Value is an interesting thing; market forces often determine how much something is worth. However, value can also be determined by the worth that an individual chooses to bestow.

There is a website called www.Peopleperhour.com that allows people to advertise their services and determine how much they want to charge. On it, you can find people from the same professions charging from as little as £8 an hour to £300 for the same service – with little discernable difference in what’s on offer.

In our society, it is so easy to treat people the same way that we treat things by placing a value on them according to their jobs or net worth. If the President of the United States had to have a life-saving blood transfusion and the only suitable donor happened to be a beggar, he would still have the transfusion. On any other day the president probably would not have given the beggar a second look. It is the same red blood that flows through our veins – princes and paupers alike, and sickness and problems have a way of resetting our value systems.

To some people that we work with “time” is not money – it is life. To them, every day, every hour, every minute and every second is not accounted for in terms of profit and loss but in terms of survival or loss. To them, time can mean the difference between having a home or being made homeless, having enough food or having to go without.

At Christmas, we had a party for the families that we work with. What made it very special was the various companies that chose to add value to it by allowing their employees to organise it, provide entertainment, and presents for the children.

The time that those employees sacrificed translated into special memories of warmth, fun, joy, happiness and presents for the children of vulnerable families in Westminster. And judging by the photos, those employees also had a good time.

You see, time does not have to be money – although, money certainly helps. However, it can also be your expertise, your advice, a sponsored event, or donated goods. Time has whatever value we chose to place on it.

A special thank you to Experian, British Land, Land Securities, John Lewis and the Volunteer Centre for showing that time can be more than money.


Nat Cato
Communications Team


Every Second Counts…

Please support us by making a text donation.

Your text donations are free! Your network provider won’t charge you for them.
100% of your donation will be used to keep our Family Services running.

Text:  Time01  £2 / £5 / £10 to 70070

to donate now!



For more information: www.befriendafamily.co.uk/every-second-counts/

Every Second Counts is a campaign run by Westminster Befriend a Family (WBAF) to raise funds to provide practical help and support to disadvantaged families in Westminster who are unable to cope with the debilitating problems they are going through.