During Covid-19 lockdown Alert Level 4 and 3 – it increased feelings of isolation for people who are blind, deafblind or have low vision. While we were physically distancing, the phone was the perfect medium to provide comfort and support, as our Telefriend Team do so well.

Read more about the award winning team:

What is Telefriend?

Telefriend is a support service that offers people who are blind, deafblind or have low vision the opportunity to talk to other people who understand from their own experience.

Staffed by trained volunteers who are blind or have low vision themselves, Telefriend is a caring, confidential service protected by a code of practice.

The Telefriend volunteers are Sue, Heather, Elaine, Gail, Michael, Amanda, George and June.

“We are compassionate, good listeners and have a varied range of problem solving abilities”, says the team jointly, summing up their skills. In reality, a lot of effort and time goes into providing this service by a team of eight dedicated volunteers. The phone line is staffed from Monday to Friday between 1pm and 4pm. Outside of these hours, callers can leave a message.

How does it work?

There is no typical day in the life of a Telefriend, says volunteer June who coordinates the team. The calls are shared between the team members on a weekly basis. Besides receiving calls, the team also make outgoing care calls. Telefriends acknowledge callers’ significant birthdays, send them get well cards wishes and sadly sometimes, sympathy cards.

Interesting Moments:

Being unable to contact a certain client over a few days caused some worry. The police came to the rescue and found the client in good health. He even insisted on their ID before opening the door. The mystery was solved when they found the phone hadn’t been placed back on the stand.

Another instance was when a normally cheerful man didn’t sound quite himself. Some further questions revealed that he had fallen that morning. The Telefriend team knew the client had no relatives. They acted quickly and made a few calls, which ensured the person who suffered a broken hip, was taken to the hospital and looked after.

What makes Telefriend tick?

They believe the secret to their success is being able to talk to some great people, have a chuckle or two and hear some marvellous stories. The Telefriend tem received an award from Blind Low Vision NZ in recognition for the work they willingly do. This was a highlight as was the special evening at Parliament when they were acknowledged for their voluntary efforts. “We certainly don’t volunteer for any kind of personal glory but it was nice to be publicly appreciated,” says June. Often families of clients who passed away, have told them what a difference the calls made to the lives of their loved ones.

Working Together:

This endearing bunch of volunteers are supported by Tina Marshall, Blind Low Vision NZ Counsellor/Family Support.

“The Telefriend team are eight wonderful volunteers with an amazing sense of humour, compassionate, friendly, caring and are confidential; my role with the team is to provide support. I feel honored and privileged to be able to do this.” In return the team are very thankful and say that ‘Tina is lovely; her calmness and practicality helps to steady us all”.

Thank you very very much, Telefriend Team, for your support.

How to contact Telefriend

Phone Telefriend for a friendly chat on 0800 100 051 any time from Monday to Friday between 1pm and 4pm. Outside of these hours, callers can leave a message and the team will return your call.

You can also get in touch about our other counselling services by calling 0800 24 33 33 or emailing info@blindlowvision.org.nz