The No.1 Befriending Agency
1716. Audrey Mutongi
Audrey Mutongi, from Glasgow, set up the ‘No.1 Befriending Agency’, training volunteers to become befrienders for older people facing loneliness and social isolation across the city.
‘The No.1 Befriending Agency’ was formed in September 2016 from Audrey’s experience working as a carer for older adults, and frequently realising that the people she was caring for longed for meaningful interaction in addition to the simple mechanical acts of care they received. Befrienders provide regular visits for isolated older people and help link them up with a wider support network, as well as creating opportunities for new connections and companionship. During the pandemic, Audrey set up a telephone befriending service and sourced equipment such as iPads and tablets for older people to allow them to still connect and participate in regular online activities.
In a personal letter to Audrey, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said:
“Loneliness and isolation became especially stark during the privations of the lockdown. So it is wonderful that you provided older people with devices to make virtual connections which have now turned into real life friendships.
“By creating a space where young and old can forge bonds, you have made your community stronger. Your work will also become a powerful part of the legacy of the pandemic, where people made friendships and connections that will endure.”
In response to receiving the award, Audrey said:
“I’m honoured to be awarded. It gives me great joy that the work we do changes lives, creates a more connected society and is transformational to both those that befriend and those that feel they are being befriended. Long may this work of befriending continue! I’m happy to accept the award.”