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How friendship helps us and our community

From very early into lockdown, like many other people, I realised this was something we had never experienced before. Looking back, it would have been much harder and a much lonelier place without my family, friends and colleagues. And even then, there were, and still are some lonely times. So to mark the end of this year’s Friendship Month, I’m reflecting on what friendship means to me and the Foothold community.

Reaching out

All the adverts TV adverts told us to keep in touch with people in any way we could. WhatsApp, phone calls, Zoom, Skype, FaceTime and so on.  But what if you didn’t have anyone to keep in touch with? Many people couldn’t leave their homes to do things they always did. If you couldn’t have your usual chats with others at the shops, post office or bank, how would you feel?

Foothold Tuesday team meeting is where we all get a chance to chat and catch up. One day, we had a talk about the members of Foothold community who were likely to become isolated and lonely, as the days of lockdown grew into weeks and months. We also knew that some of our members weren’t comfortable communicating by email, Instead, they liked a good old-fashioned chat. So we put our heads together and decided that we would write to a group of IET members. We wanted to offer a chance to keep in touch by telephone calls or letters. Initially we wrote to around 150 people. Our message was simple: hello, how are you, do you need any support, would you like to have a chat?

A few people replied to say thank you for the handwritten cards. Many thought it was a lovely gesture, and that it was nice to receive something so thoughtful. Not everyone wanted to have someone to talk to. But those who did were paired up with a volunteer and the Friendship team was launched. 

My personal friendship teams

I am lucky to have a range of friends that have come into my life at different times. I have some friends from school; our children are now friends too. I also have playground mum friends. We all met when our children started school together 15 years ago. And now we all chat weekly and go out together at least once a month, even if it’s only for a coffee. There is my University friends group too. We met around 10 years ago as mature students on an Early Years Education degree. We supported each other through working full time, running a home, looking after a family and studying full time for a degree. So after 3 years of spending so much time with each other through laughter and tears, our friendship was here to stay. So we now go out and on holidays together on a regular basis.  

I’m sure none of my colleagues will be surprised to hear that I’m the ‘organiser’ of my friendship groups. So I wasn’t going to let things slip in lockdown. My friends and I met through Houseparty and Zoom s at least once a week and messaged most days. Sometimes it was something silly we had seen, sometimes it was to vent about Covid-19, the kids, partners or the people in the supermarket, It didn’t really matter what it was – we just did it. We didn’t forget birthdays even in lockdown, especially as we should have been spending one of them in Sorrento! There would always be wine, flowers and cakes left on doorsteps and happy birthdays shouted from the end of the drive or the other side of the road. It’s what friends do, and I’m so glad they do it.

Supporting each other

Throughout my life my friends a have played a big part in my life and who I have become. They have always been there for me and vice versa. At least I hope they would all say that!  Physically and mentally we have supported each other. Whether it’s running marathons, going on diets, going to exercise classes or children growing up and going off to uni or work. There were car crashes, new jobs, redundancy, births, marriages, divorces, losing loved ones people and pets, and so much more. 

Friends who can do all this with no strings attached and no expect nothing but friendship in return are the friends we need to cherish and keep hold of. 

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