An ear to lean on is only a call away

Reaching out to lonely is TeleFriend's gift

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GIFT OF FRIENDSHIP: Sheila Blanchfield (right) with VMCH grants and bequests officer Sandra Rosano.

GIFT OF FRIENDSHIP: Sheila Blanchfield (right) with VMCH grants and bequests officer Sandra Rosano.

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VMCH volunteer's regular phone chats brighten lives of those left behind by technology.

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We're living in a time when it's especially important to stay connected and to look out for each other.

Sheilah Blanchfield is doing her bit on both fronts in her role as a TeleFriend volunteer with VMCH (Villa Maria Catholic Homes).

TeleFriend is a free VMCH service whereby trained volunteers make weekly calls to more vulnerable or socially isolated people who access VMCH services.

"A lot of people have trouble with technology so in today's world they're really left behind," Sheilah said. "TeleFriend is a simple, old-fashioned and easy way of communicating with someone."

Sheilah, who's volunteered with the not-for-profit organisation for around a decade, currently chats to an older woman living in one of VMCH's affordable housing units.

Before this, she connected with two ladies whose respective husbands had recently moved into aged care.

"They were physically and mentally exhausted by the time their spouses went into care," Sheilah said. "The idea is really to let them talk and I listen. You can usually notice a lift in their spirits by the end of the call."

LIFE-LONG LINK

East Melbourne-based VMCH is an organisation close to Sheilah's heart.

Blind since birth, she was a student at its specialist school St Paul's College in the 1950s.

She still likes to visit the school and students from time to time, and is a regular donor to VMCH too.

Sheilah encouraged others to volunteer if they could.

"If you can just do something for somebody else, it's enough. It's a nice feeling and you can make some great friends."

VMCH has more than 620 volunteers people of all ages, cultural and spiritual backgrounds helping in areas such as social visits, arts and crafts, music, education, transport, administration, op shop customer service and support with one-off events.

It holds volunteer information sessions throughout the year.

VMCH also conducts a series of educational workshops to help people understand their care options as they age

To find out more about VMCH, call 1800-036-377 or visit vmch.com.au

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