Lorna to help others banish loneliness

Lorna Sheal is looking forward to training as a befriender. Picture: Neil Hanna
Lorna Sheal is looking forward to training as a befriender. Picture: Neil Hanna
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LORNA Sheal has always wanted to help others but two children and a career meant that those aspirations had to take a back seat for years.

But now that her daughters are grown up and she has scaled down work by one day a week the student support officer at Edinburgh University has more time on her hands and she wants to pay it forward.

A regular listener of Forth 1 in the mornings, the Penicuik native was inspired by the radio station’s Take the Time befriending campaign which asked its listeners to sign up to offer support and friendship to people suffering from loneliness.

She said: “It was something I’ve been thinking of doing for years but never had time but when I heard about the campaign on the radio, something clicked.”

Soon after signing up she was connected to Homelink Family Support, a home-visiting service in Edinburgh and Midlothian who provide practical and emotional support for families with young children. Lorna was surprised that she would be helping younger people, like many others she had assumed that it was mostly the elderly who dealt with feelings of isolation.

She said: “I must admit I was quite surprised but I remember when I had my first daughter feeling isolated when you can’t get out and about and you haven’t had enough sleep. When I thought about what I went through having young children I understood. Sometimes it’s just a lack of confidence.”

She is hopeful that her own experience as a mum will comfort others: “If I can help people out at that stage it might stop them getting down or depressed. I feel that if I can do that wee thing it might help people.”

Lorna is excited about the four-day training in Edinburgh and Dalkeith in September. She aced her interview for the service and is comforted by the amount of support offered. “Everything is so well organised”, she said. “It seems very structured and I’m really looking forward to it.”

She knows that her new role has the potential to be challenging and emotional but is confident that the training will prepare her for any eventuality.

She could be working with a family for up to a year, visiting once a week, with Homelink insisting on a six-month minimum commitment to the scheme. She said: “I’m a little apprehensive only because I’ll be in someone’s home and part of their lives. I’m hoping that we get on and that I can help them.”

Lorna thinks getting involved in schemes that help communities are vital: “There aren’t enough services out there for lonely people. I’ll be a support and I can’t wait.”

To find out more go to www.planetradio.co.uk/forth/local/news/take-the-time/