A listening ear when one is so badly needed

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ALUN Evans describes himself as ‘a good listener’ and ‘a people person’ - which make him ideally qualified to help people struggling to come to terms with bereavement.

Now retired, Alun, of Field Lane, Rastrick, is a volunteer for CHIBS - Calderdale Help in Bereavement Service - says one of the main strengths of the service is that it provides ‘a listening ear’ to people who need emotional support following the death of a love one.

Alun, who is 71, said: “I had retired and been looking for some way to get involved in voluntary activities. I saw an appeal for volunteers for CHIBS in the Brighouse Echo about a year ago and I thought ‘I could do that’.

“I like to think I am a sympathetic person and that I am good at listening. It is very rewarding to think you are helping someone at a very difficult and stressful time in their lives.”

Most CHIBS volunteers are female and there is a continuing need for more befrienders - particularly men.

“I don’t think people mind too much whether a befriender is male or female. Mostly they just want to be able to talk to a sympathetic person who has got time to listen and understand.”

CHIBS was founded in 1984 and its work has been recognised with the Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service and the Duke of York’s Community Initiative Award.

Fourteen new volunteers are currently undergoing training - part of the regular programme of recruitment needed to keep the service running.

The group was awarded charitable status in 2003 and fundraising is necessary to maintain the free support offered. CHIBS will have a stall at Halifax Charity Gala in June and outside Halifax Central Library in July.

“As well as raising funds, these stalls are a good way of raising awareness of our work and occasionally attracting the interest of new volunteers,” said Alun who is also deputy chair of the organisation.

“Sometimes clients want to meet you face to face, sometimes they prefer to talk over the phone. Some people just need one visit, others may require 15 sessions.

“We are happy to fit in with the clients and the door is always left open should they need additional help. The best thing a client can say to us is that they are ready to move on and that they don’t need us any more.”

According to the chair Anne Dalby, volunteers need no special qualifications - just compassion, empathy, sensitivity and caring in abundance.

“Time given to clients is usually around one hour a visit and can start on a weekly basis. Gradually, as the client feels comfortable and able to cope, the visits could then be fortnightly, monthly or even a telephone call.

“Joining CHIBS can give great satisfaction especially when the client says ‘I think I will be alright now’.”

All volunteers have to undergo criminal record checks and take part in a training course.

l Anyone interested in finding out more about CHIBS and its work should contact the co-ordinator on 07774086456.