A BEFRIENDING volunteer who signed up to take time to talk to people suffering from isolation during the pandemic has spoken out about her experience.

Emma Robinson, who works for Darlington Building Society, started volunteering as a befriender for Age UK North Yorkshire and Darlington in October.

Since then, Emma has developed a special bond with Carmen, 70, who lives alone in the Darlington area.

She calls Carmen once a week, and was able to meet her face to face – under social distancing rules – at Christmas.

She said: "I love speaking to people, and it’s such a big part of my job with Darlington Building Society, so when the opportunity came up to volunteer with Age UK, I jumped at it.

“It really pulls at my heartstrings to think of people being on their own, and Age UK is a charity close to my heart because it has been a source of support for members of my family in the past.”

She added: "We talk about all sorts of things, and we’ve built up a lovely rapport. Every time I come off the phone after talking to Carmen, I have a warm feeling, like I’ve done something really worthwhile.

As well as Emma, Carmen also has another Age UK befriender who calls regularly, and she also benefits from the charity’s Meals At Home service.

Carmen said: “It has all been such a wonderful experience – everyone has been so helpful."

Every employee at Darlington Building Society is given two days paid volunteering time and Emma was one of six members of staff to respond to Age UK's plea for help.

Chief executive Andrew Craddock said: “Being part of the communities we serve is such an important part of our ethos, and it’s fantastic to see caring employees like Emma making such a difference to people’s lives.”

Helen Hunter, chief executive of Age UK North Yorkshire and Darlington, said: “We are so grateful to Darlington Building Society for this invaluable support in such a key area of our work, and we are delighted to hear that it’s been a positive experience.”