The Befriending Programme is an invaluable asset to MLRC as we recognise that the legal system can be alienating, 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.