#BefriendingIs Volunteering with Community Companions, St Barnabas House, West Sussex

Sat 7 Nov 2020

Over the last few months, volunteering for St Barnabas House has been mostly on hold, but Ella Cowgill, Community Companions Coordinator, explained that one role that has been able to continue telephone befriending through Community Companions. Volunteers Sue and Pete share their experiences...

Volunteer Sue has been phoning a patient once a week, and has said it is so rewarding for her to be able to help in some way still.

Over the last few months, volunteering for St Barnabas House has been mostly on hold. One role that has been able to continue is our Community Companions offering telephone befriending.

She says, “As we went into lockdown I was waiting for a new patient to visit. The Community Companions service could no longer offer visits to St Barnabas patients, due to COVID-19, which seemed such a sad situation at a time when befriending support was more essential than ever.

I was asked if I would be prepared to make a weekly telephone call to a patient for a friendly chat. I thought this was a great idea! I had one call with my new patient before she was admitted to St Barnabas for a short time and during that time I sent her a little note each week just to keep in touch.

Being a Community Companion is an important part of my life and it’s been great to continue that role, albeit in a different way.”


Pete has been a Community Companion for 18 months, alongside being a Maintenance Volunteer at the hospice.

He says, “Shortly after lockdown began, the Community Companions team asked me if I would make contact with a patient who is in a nursing home. Instead of visiting him, however, I would be offering telephone support – which I was happy to do. When I ring he is always in very good spirits. It turned out that we were both born and bred in a similar part of the east end of London, and we had a lot in common. He has experienced lots of highs and lows in his life, and is a very intelligent and philosophical man. He is quite a character and is very amusing – we laugh a lot! It is a pleasure to ring him once a week, and I hope to visit him regularly when the restrictions are lifted.”

Pete’s patient, Billy, says “St Barnabas is a great organisation. Pete is an extremely nice man and so easy to get on with. We chat about the old days! Obviously lockdown has made things more difficult to have visitors so it’s nice to have someone to chat to regularly. He laughs at my silly jokes…anyone who does that must be a nice bloke!”

By: Ella Cowgill, Community Companions Coordinator, St Barnabas House