National Befriending Week – John and Derek’s story

This week is National Befriending Week, so we are focusing on a story from Befriending match John and Derek, who like their passion for flowers have seen their relationship blossom over the last year.


St Monica Trust’s Befriending Scheme has been running in BS3 and BS14 for over 8 years. The scheme aims to combat isolation and loneliness in over 60’s, by providing regular companionship on a weekly or fortnightly basis. 

Two people who have seen the benefits of this scheme are Volunteer Derek and Befriendee John. The pair have been matched for over a year and have seen their relationship blossom through the support of St Monica Trust's Befriending Scheme...

John’s Story

In 1936 John was born into a farming family, where he spent the majority of his life working hard on the land and caring for his animals. Whatever John did not know about farming, was not worth knowing. 

In 2015, John made the decision to sell his farmhouse and land. This is a decision that haunts him every day. He moved to an area of Bristol that he was not familiar with and found that he couldn't get used to the new noises that surrounded him. 

With very few family members that visit him, he became increasingly lonely and isolated, finding it very hard to look beyond the past, becoming very anxious about life in general, and at times feeling disempowered and not in control of his life.

Since being matched with Derek, it has given John something to look forward too, he says ‘I enjoy him coming and enjoy his surprises. He keeps me on my toes’.

John loves to enjoy a slice of Madeira cake and can find it thought-provoking to share a slice with Derek at times.

Derek’s Story

Derek has been visiting John as a volunteer Befriender since August 2016. With both having a farming background, they enjoy talking about their shared passion of farming, land and seasons, with much enthusiasm. 

Derek heard so much about John's farming past, that it inspired him to drive to John's home and take photos of how it looks now, a gesture that brought John so much pleasure. 

Derek also decided to take John on a journey back through time, showing John photos from his past travels around Australia. John jokingly says, 'I have seen the photos so many times, I know it by heart now.'

Over the past year, they have both enjoyed visits to garden centres, sharing their passion for beautiful things and watching them grow. 

When asked what Derek enjoys about volunteering as Befriender, he says ‘I enjoy seeing John smile’. 

If you know someone who lives in South Bristol and would benefit from a weekly Befriending visit, or if you would like to volunteer as a Befriender, then please contact Karen Bennett, Community Befriending Officer on 07875 406 844 or email