Total strangers to true companions

By: Latasha Brown, Communications Coordinator

Despite being brought together out of an unfortunate circumstance, the powerful impact of Chris and George’s story is bright, inspiring, and heartwarming. The bond the two now have speaks to the undeniable importance of human connection and how something as simple as having a conversation can make a world of difference to someone.

Going from total strangers to true companions - through the Friendly Calls program, this is exactly what Chris and George have done. With each conversation, they have strengthened their relationship to where they have become comfortable sharing their sincere thoughts, seeking advice, and have developed genuine care for one another’s wellbeing.

Chris Hetke Photo, Friendly Calls Program Volunteer Chris Hetke smiles in a close-up solo photo"Just hearing that George is doing well, is what I look forward to the most," says Chris, pictured right.

When striving to make a difference in other people’s lives, it’s easy to be overwhelmed by the pressure to make sweeping changes and doing grand gestures for the desired outcome. When really, some of the biggest changes can be made with the simplest actions— with the power of human connection being one of the best tools to achieve them.

The Canadian Red Cross Friendly Calls program focuses on reducing feelings of loneliness and isolation in older adults by creating supportive connections. Through these connections, consistent weekly calls or wellness check-ins are made to help support and understand what matters most to the person receiving a call. Through this, trust and bonds are created allowing for flowing conversation and opportunities to share community-based resources with participants.

Canadian Red Cross volunteer Chris and Friendly Calls program participant George began their journey together with the program last year during the height of the pandemic. Their calls occur once or twice a week, ranging anywhere from a short check-in to hour-long conversations.

Over the year, this consistency has allowed them to build a solid connection which made for a seamless transition from discussing surface-level topics to having deeper and more meaningful conversations Chris shares that some of their best chats have been serious discussions surrounding “death, politics, and things like that.” He goes on to say, “having the ability to have those deeper conversations with someone who’s got more years than I do and to hear his perspectives on things which are different than mine has been a valuable thing.”

When asked what inspired him to volunteer with the Friendly Calls program, Chris shared that in his healthcare profession, he noticed just how many older adults often have little to no interaction. He soon realized that even sparking up simple conversations could make a world of a difference, and volunteering with the program became the obvious next step to make a difference.

“It takes little effort to make a big impact, why wouldn’t I?”

George is friendly by nature and quite the storyteller. He thoroughly enjoys being able to engage with new people and sharing his experiences. Unfortunately, earlier in the year he became homebound while recovering from an injury. It was during this time the lack of interaction compounded with the isolating impacts of the pandemic really started to affect him. He then decided to try the program after hearing about it from a Red Cross staff member.

“It’s wonderful to get someone to talk to. It gets rid of all the monotony and frustrations sometimes of being by yourself,” says George.

Their pairing has been extremely beneficial for both George shares, “We ask each other things and we wind up with knowledge from one another and it’s wonderful.” He continues, “We could be brothers and I think it would work.”

Volunteering with the Friendly Calls program is a heartwarming way to give back. These are more than just calls, it’s about building meaningful connections with an impact that can last a lifetime.

If you live in any of the Atlantic Provinces, Alberta, Manitoba, or Saskatchewan, find more Friendly Calls volunteer information and apply!

Related stories:

See your impact in action.

Sign up to receive impact updates from the Canadian Red Cross, inspirational stories from the field and be the first to hear about emergency relief efforts.

The Canadian Red Cross takes your privacy seriously. We do not distribute or sell your email address to anyone. View our privacy policy.

Blog Archives