Dumfries and Galloway Befriending Project celebrates 25th anniversary

A charity which creates life-enriching opportunities for young people across Dumfries and Galloway is celebrating its 25th anniversary.

Since its launch in 1997, Dumfries and Galloway Befriending Project (DGBP) has supported 1,500 young people, with its volunteer befrienders collectively spending more than 100,000 hours with those youngsters.

The charity, which has offices in Dumfries and Newton Stewart, supports young people aged eight to 18 through difficult times in their young lives by matching them with an adult befriender.

Its work that has proven transformational for many – giving them increased confidence, improving life opportunities and helping them reach their full potential.

Those achievements – and more – were applauded by befriendees, befriending volunteers and other supporters during a special anniversary celebration at The Usual Place in Dumfries.

Guests included Lord Lieutenant for Dumfriesshire, Fiona Armstrong, MSPs Emma Harper and Colin Smyth as well as some of the young people who have benefited from the charity’s work.

Ms Armstrong praised the “incredible” work carried out by volunteers and staff as she joined some of the young people who have benefitted from the project in cutting a birthday cake, saying: “We congratulate you all.”

DGBP Chair David Miller said: “This charity’s work is a fantastic success story for Dumfries and Galloway, enriching the lives of young people through befriending.

“It’s clear from the feedback we receive that the work our terrific team does makes such a difference to the lives of young people. It’s so pleasing to hear and we’re thankful to everyone who makes it possible, from our staff and volunteers to funders and other supporters.

“Our ambition is for the charity to go from strength to strength and that we continue to help children in their time of need, when they just need a little support – something which has no stigma attached to it.”

The charity works by matching a young person referred to them – someone who may be affected by all manner of circumstances, including from isolation, issues at school or in their family – with a specially-trained adult volunteer.

They spend a few hours a week together, generally having fun as the befriender listens, encourages and shares good experiences with them. They can be as simple as going for a walk or having a bite to eat.

People interested in finding out more about becoming a befriender- or joining the charity’s volunteer management committee – are being urged to get in-touch.

Some of the befrienders who volunteer with the Dumfries & Galloway Befriending Project with a 25th anniversary banner.
Some of the befrienders who volunteer with the Dumfries & Galloway Befriending Project with a 25th anniversary banner.

Befriending Coordinator Gill McMinn has worked with the charity for 20 years and has seen time and again the difference its work makes.

She said: “Young people find themselves with us for all sorts of reasons. I love being part of making really positive connections which make a huge difference.

“It’s so rewarding for the befriendee and the befriender as you see them build a good relationship and see the confidence of that young person grow. The impact this has on their life is often great.”

Explaining what she enjoyed about her weekly meet-ups, one young person said: “I feel free. I can talk openly and be myself.”

Her mum added: “She’s now so much happier leaving the house – she’s a different person.”

South Scotland SNP MSP Emma Harper was one of the speakers at the celebration event, held last Thursday (September 1).

She said: “It was fantastic to hear the young people on stage, with their befrienders, talking about their experiences.

“It would be fantastic if more people would come forward to become volunteers. This is something that Dumfries and Galloway is completely punching above its weight on.”

South Scotland Labour MSP Colin Smyth added: “It’s been a really difficult few years for so many people in our community. So many people, thanks to the befriending project, have had someone with them to give them invaluable support. Thank you – and here’s to another 25 years.”

Dumfries & Galloway Befriending Project is the proud recipient of a Quality in Befriending (Excellence) Award from Befriending Networks and the Investing in Volunteers Award, reflecting the high standards it works to.

For more information about the charity and its work – including finding out how to volunteer – call 01387 247812 or email projectoffice@befriending.org.