Joe Hill is an Age UK Norfolk Telephone Befriender, who regularly calls an older gentleman living on the outskirts of Norwich. At just 24, Joe has racked up an impressive 8 years as a volunteer, joining the team at just 16 years old – making him one of Age UK Norfolk’s youngest volunteers.
Joe, who was raised in Norfolk, cites his mother as his main influence for becoming involved with volunteering. 'She’s always been a Good Samaritan; I’ve grown up seeing her help others' he says. Then, at 16, when Joe’s grandfather sadly passed away, he realised he could give some time and comfort back to others who might be lonely. When a friend mentioned Age UK Norfolk’s Telephone Befriending team, he put in a call and the rest, as they say, is history.
And so began a long-term friendship, between what might ordinarily have been an unusual match, but that has seen both parties flourish in their support of one another. Joe was paired with Ronnie, 75, who after 8 years has seen Joe grow up. 'He’s been there for me as much as I have for him', Joe says. Ronnie himself has an interesting past, as a member of the British Cycling team in the 1970s.
Soon after finishing his A levels, Joe left to explore the world for a year, with his travels taking him to New Zealand and India. But the two didn’t let the distance halt their budding friendship, using skype and postcards sent from all over the globe to keep in touch. After returning from his gap year, Joe went on to study Psychology at University and despite a hectic schedule; the pair once again remained in contact. Joe says that Ronnie quite likes the surprise of when he’ll call next; 'I don’t like making it feel like shift work. It’s just like talking to a mate.'
Fast forward a few years and Joe now works for Together, a national charity which works alongside people with mental health issues.
Joe says that during his time as a volunteer befriender, 'it was never really something I had to think about, I just did it' and for Ronnie - who has mobility issues - their chats are, 'a touch of the outside world, it reminds him that things are moving and existing outside.'
For Joe, 'befriending has been one of the easiest ways of giving. We will all get older and need support and giving just a few minutes here and there can really help.'
After 8 years of volunteering with Age UK Norfolk, how does Joe feel about the future? 'Wow. I had no idea I had been doing this that long. I will have to make it my mission to be the longest ever serving volunteer now!'
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