Friendly Call program brings Canadians together

By Shaylyn MacAulay

Could a simple phone call be the cure for loneliness? Loneliness is of course a complex state of being, but many isolated Canadians are finding reprieve from the often overwhelming feeling through friendly phone calls. Although one phone call may not offer a cure, participants in the Canadian Red Cross Friendly Call Program are finding it does open the door to conversation, friendship, and mutual respect. 

A phone beside a cup of tea with a slice of lemon floating in it.The Friendly Call Program pairs specially trained volunteers with isolated Canadians for weekly phone calls to provide support, companionship, and links to resources in the community. “It brings me companionship, something to look forward to each week,” says program participant Ruth. “Conversation really brightens my day.”

Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic we have seen the need for psychosocial support soar as many Canadians found themselves unexpectedly isolated from their day-to-day interactions. Isolation and loneliness can take a significant toll on your physical and mental wellbeing and can cause issues like memory lapse, increased anxiety, and hopelessness.

Thanks to the generous investment of $950,000 by Bell Canada, the Canadian Red Cross has been able to scale up and expand the Friendly Calls Program to reach even more Canadians in need of support. 

The program goes beyond simply offering a quick “hello”; volunteers take the time to connect with participants, providing a safe space to share their anxieties, frustrations as well as what brings them joy.

“She was a friendly voice that was reaching out, not just saying ‘hi’,” says program participant Bonnie. “She had energy in her voice that picked me up and pulled me out of the mire. I am so thankful to the Red Cross for this program.”

Volunteers are also trained to help participants improve their situation by referring them to complementary resources, like food banks and other community supports. 

One Canadian Red Cross food security program client has found the Friendly Calls program particularly helpful after recently being referred to the program and paired with a volunteer. “I was very happy to access this benefit because I have no family here. The empathy and compassion shown to me each time we chat have been appreciated beyond measure.”

Companionship and conversation will only grow in importance as staggered lockdowns across the country continue to be part of our new normal. Bell Let’s Talk Day on January 28, 2021 is an excellent reminder to connect with those around you in an effort to create positive change in mental health. 

On Bell Let’s Talk Day, Bell will donate more towards mental health initiatives in Canada by contributing 5¢ for every applicable text, call, tweet or TikTok video using #BellLetsTalk, Bell social media video view and use of their Facebook frame or Snapchat filter. 

Thanks to support from Bell Canada, the Canadian Red Cross Friendly Call program has expanded to the Atlantic provinces, Ontario and Quebec. The Red Cross also offers similar services in Alberta and Saskatchewan. Please consider becoming a Friendly Call volunteer today!

To learn more about the Friendly Call program in your area please contact your local Red Cross branch.

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