Befriending in Belper

Published: June 22 2023
Last updated: June 22 2023

Epilepsy Action’s Befriending Service places one of our Befriending volunteers with a person living with epilepsy for one to one advice and support over weekly remote sessions.

The service has become increasingly popular with more people signing up to be either a Befriender or Befriendee. To highlight the service and share what being part of the Befriending scheme is like, staff from Epilepsy Action travelled to Belper in Derbyshire to meet one of our volunteers and the person they have been supporting.

About a 90-minute drive from the Epilepsy Action HQ in Leeds is Belper, a small, semi-rural market town in which Jaimie, our support engagement officer and Janine, one of our volunteer support officers met with Lisha and Holly. We arrived at a beautiful community hall, housed in a centuries old former grammar school ready for a full day of filming to showcase our Befriending service.

With us, was our film maker Jamie, owner of Darkglass Pictures. He arrived bright and early to set up, turning our modest room into a full-blown set, featuring various lighting rigs, sound equipment and the camera ready to share Lisha and Holly’s story.

Lisha, who travelled from her home in Wales, was diagnosed with epilepsy around six years ago. Lisha turned to Epilepsy Action for help and support and has since become a volunteer with the charity.

Holly was diagnosed at age 13 faced difficult times following the news. They had issues at school and in their social life and also came to Epilepsy Action for some signposting, something that many people miss out on in a clinical setting.

After discovering Epilepsy Action on social media, Holly was made aware of the Befriending Service after reading our email newsletter and from there a genuine friendship blossomed between her and Lisha.

We met up with them both in Belper and it was a truly touching experience. Seeing Holly and Lisha meet for the first time as they were coming to the end of their sessions allowed us to see the real impact the service has had and just how helpful Epilepsy Action is at providing truly vital advice.

"Lisha made me feel like I wasn't alone anymore. I could open up to her about pretty much anything. "

They shared jokes and laughs and immediately, you could see just how vital the Befriending Service is for both the volunteer, Lisha and Holly, who needed help and support.

After just a few minutes, the two settled in and it was like there were no cameras at all. Answering questions with a camera ahead can be hard but Holly and Lisha really took it in their stride and shared their emotional journey with epilepsy.

We spent a whole day with the two, hearing about their interests and why they both signed up to be part of the service. Holly spoke of her struggles with confidence and trust but thanks to Lisha’s commitment they were able to start making better progress following the difficult diagnosis.

It was really eye opening, as staff we don’t get to be on the ground meeting our members and volunteers as much as we would probably like but after just one day we felt happy knowing that the organisation we work for can really help people who are left in the dark.

Holly and Lisha worked brilliantly with our filmmaker Jamie and photographer Jonathan. Lisha was a true natural and we got to see in person just how at ease she was able to make Holly feel.

Seeing them laugh and joke together and share being part of the epilepsy community showed how just that simple connection can work wonders. The Befriending Service is not there to provide you with a friend however, it exists to give you a more personal relationship with our service and allows people like Holly to ask questions they may not want to ask over our helpline or email service.

It’s not often we get to see our work in action but on that day we did and it further demonstrated just how important it is for our members and others affected by epilepsy to have access to a support network.

We look forward to sharing the day with all of our supporters when the film is launched next week. We cannot wait for you to see the impact the service has.

You can find out more about the Befriending Service on the Epilepsy Action website.

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