RAF Association befriending service will benefit veterans

Jim Rudkin, 92, benefits from the RAF association befriending service, receiving visits from volunteer Derek Boxell
Jim Rudkin, 92, benefits from the RAF association befriending service, receiving visits from volunteer Derek Boxell

The Royal Air Forces Association is encouraging members of the RAF family in the Steyning area to get in touch if they are feeling isolated or lonely as they could enjoy visits from a volunteer befriender.

The befriending service has teams of dedicated and specially-trained volunteers who support serving and ex-RAF personnel in need of a friendly face.

Befrienders pay regular visits to people they support, giving them someone to talk to and look forward to seeing. Time is often spent reminiscing about life in the RAF, with support to re-establish old connections or form new ones with people in their area.

Jim Rudkin, 92, uses the service and receives visits from Derek Boxell, a retired RAF air traffic controller and trainer who now volunteers with the charity.

Jim loves to talk about his time in the RAF and feels that Derek’s visits really help him make a connection with the modern-day service, keeping him interested in the world outside his door. Derek even laid on a visit to see a Horsa Glider replica and helped Jim attend the anniversary ceremonies in Germany.

Jim said: “I think about my RAF days more as I get older and I think most people do. It’s like Douglas Bader said in one of his speeches, we all shared an experience.”

In 2017, the RAF Association responded to hundreds of appeals for befriending support.

Rory O’Connor, the charity’s director of welfare and policy, said: “Feelings of loneliness and isolation can be a serious issue for people who served in the RAF because, when they retire, they suddenly lose the camaraderie of being part of a close-knit community of colleagues.”

Rory hopes people in the Steyning area will be able to benefit from the scheme, which he says is beneficial and positive for both the volunteers and the people receiving support.

For more information about befriending services, phone the RAF Association on 0800 018 2361, email welfare@rafa.org.uk or visit rafa.org.uk/befriending

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