MLRC’s Befriending service is a unique service that is central to our work in helping those who are homeless or at risk of homelessness. MLRC has been in existence since 2009 and has an average of seven to 10 Befriendees a year. Some clients are fairly short term but we have a core of longer term clients who appreciate the support given and remain with their Befriender for a longer period. This service is offered to clients who seem to be relatively unsupported by family or other organisations and find it difficult to follow through with the legal process. Clients vary greatly, some have literacy difficulties, others relatively mild mental health difficulties, emotional difficulties, relationship difficulties, language difficulties, others may be victims of domestic violence or just people who have fallen on hard times and find it difficult to cope. We network with some Counselling services or Mediation services when it seems necessary or useful.
In January, MLRC were delighted to welcome on board three new Befrienders to our group of Befriender volunteers. The new Befrienders attended a special training day on Saturday 24th January 2015, given by Maureen Sheehy. Some of our existing Befrienders attended to refresh their skills and share experiences and a number of MLRC staff members also attended. The interaction between the previous Befrienders and the new Befrienders greatly enhanced the work of the day which seemed to fly by as everyone was so involved. Humour greatly enhanced the day!
Maeve Regan, MLRC Managing Solicitor, kick started the training session by welcoming the Befrienders and she gave an introductory overview of MLRC and the reason why Befrienders are so important to the service.
Maureen Sheehy then took over the reins and worked principally through various stimulating exercises and role play. As a Befriender is required to be an empathetic listener, Maureen firstly concentrated on the importance and cultivation of listening skills. Maureen then moved on to explain the need to establish clear boundaries for both Befrienders and their Befriendees for their mutual benefit and safety. The workshop also included role-playing so as to learn how to cope with difficult and challenging situations.
Caitriona O’Hara, MLRC Befriending Service Co-ordinator, concluded the day by outlining the Basic Guidelines for the new group, which included:
- The Befriender’s meeting place should be in a public place, eg coffee shop, not in a pub.
- Initially the meetings are regular, once a week if possible to establish a rapport.
- Mobile numbers should only be given out when a relationship seems safe.
- Never get involved in lending money.
- Always refer anything unusual to the Managing Solicitor or Co-ordinator.
Caitriona ended the workshop by thanking the group for their generosity in volunteering.
This annual training day always proves extremely helpful in developing skills and preparing Befrienders for the task in hand. MLRC extends a huge thanks to all our Befrienders, for their care and compassion of our more vulnerable clients and MLRC would like to thank Maureen Sheehy for an interactive, interesting and worthwhile training day.
A brief background on Maureen Sheehy
Maureen Sheehy has worked as a facilitator/trainer with community groups, statutory bodies, institutions and organizations in the North & South of Ireland, in England, Scotland, Wales, Nigeria, Botswana, Transvaal South Africa, U.S., Guatemala and Australia. Through an EU programme she facilitated workshops in Norway, Greece, Slovakia and Lithuania. As a writer/researcher she has written magazine articles, TV & Film scripts. More recently she wrote one and co-wrote a second Community Education Training Handbook. She currently works freelance as a community education trainer, a facilitator, and as a writer.
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