Calling all compassionate communities

Published on: 20th January 2022

Photo Credit: A Volunteer sits to chat over a cup of tea




Winter can be a lonely time for some, especially those who are isolated, living alone, or unable to get out because of their care needs.


In Kington, volunteers led by Michael and Deborah Horne have set up a volunteer support group for people who need help or befriending.


The compassionate communities, or CoCo for short, comprise a network of volunteers trained to help people in need through befriending and offering small acts of kindness. Volunteers come from a wide variety of backgrounds and experience but all seek to come alongside those they support to offer help and support.


People are referred to the scheme via their local GP surgery; The GPs identify their most vulnerable and isolated patients. The patient is then matched with a local trained CoCo volunteer befriender who undertakes to visit that person regularly for an agreed length of time. 


“The scheme, which runs in a number of villages across Hereford Diocese, is an active expression of loving our neighbours. As Christians, it’s what we do to help people in need.” Explains Chrissie Pepler, Church & Society Link Development Officer, Hereford Diocese. 


She adds: “The volunteers provide a confidential listening service giving emotional support and reassurance to people referred by the GP, who are often lonely for a variety of reasons. The volunteers offer confidential listening support to people who may be isolated or lonely and seek to reconnect them with their interests, hobbies, and the local community.  It has proven to improve people‘s sense of wellbeing positively.



“Our volunteers can help signpost the unmet needs to other social services who can provide further support.”


All volunteers are trained and supported by St Michael’s Hospice, Hereford. It is up to each volunteer how much they wish to be involved with each client. Although most volunteers quickly form a bond.


Georgie was referred to CoCo by a local GP social prescribing service said:


“The CoCo service was amongst a number of things, I was prescribed as part of the social prescribing service offered by my GP practice. I was very nervous about trying it [CoCo] but I knew I had to get better and I was willing to give it a try.


“My CoCo volunteer speaks to me like a friend, she’s a familiar voice at the end of the phone. We talk once a week and chat about all sorts of things. Like a friend, she challenges me, when I need it. She listens without judgement offering words of reassurance and encouragement along the way.


“I have recently been able to get in a car and drive myself to a café to meet up for a coffee, something I would never have imaged doing beforehand.


“CoCo has really helped me and I hope other people can experience it too.”


Deborah, a CoCo volunteer, and coordinator in Kington explains: “We don’t put any time limits or restrictions on visits or our phone calls. We quickly see people begin to feel better because they talk to someone regularly.


“The first visit can feel a little tense, but once people realise that our only objective is to be there for them and simply a ‘listening ear,’ they relax.


“I have found that every engagement reveals more of God’s love for the people I work with and me. It has deepened my faith in new ways. Each referral we receive shows how vital the scheme is and how important it is that CoCo is promoted widely, particularly in rural communities.”


To find out more details about setting up CoCo where you live, please contact Chrissie Pepler, Church & Society Link Development Officer, Hereford Diocese. 

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