A new befriending project has launched in Fermanagh to provide support and companionship to older people.

The B-Friend Hub Project is a partnership project between Omagh Volunteer Centre and Strabane Community Project which was developed by both organisations along with Fermanagh Calling. The Fermanagh Calling phone line service has been in operation since 2012 and was developed and delivered by a team of staff and volunteers in Rossinver Community Development Company, Co. Leitrim. The service will now come under the umbrella of the B-Friend Hub Project.

The B-Friend Hub Project was awarded grant funding of £496,704.00 by the National Lottery Community Fund and will provide a range of person–centred services for older people. These services include free phone line befriending and home visit befriending, information, signposting, connecting to local activities and services, social events and volunteering opportunities. Available to older people throughout Fermanagh, the base of the Fermanagh B-Friend Hub is in Belcoo Enterprise Centre. The official launch of the project took place at the Silverbirch Hotel, Omagh and was well attended by guests who enjoyed a key note address from journalist and broadcaster Joe Mahon, from Lesser Spotted Ulster on UTV. During his address Joe spoke compassionately about the importance of connection and chatting with older people in a manner that respects their experience of life.

The Northern Ireland Commissioner for Older People, Eddie Lynch provided the closing address at the event and spoke about the impact of loneliness and isolation on the health and well being of older people.

Guests also enjoyed hearing from one of Strabane Community Projects participants Suzy McMonagle who shared her own heartfelt experience of the support she receives from the project and the impact that it has on her life.

A referral to the Fermanagh B-Friend Hub can be made by someone involved in the care of an older person or by self-referral. This unique befriending service can provide support and companionship to older people and can provide peace of mind for family members. The home visit befriending service is delivered by volunteer befrienders and is ideal for older people who are unable to get out and about as much as they would like to. The service supports older people to stay connected to their local community and to enjoy the company of a volunteer befriender.