The Aldridge branch rallied their members to become part of a branch community support scheme that provides an opportunity for people in the local area to stay connected and talk to someone during a prolonged period of isolation for many.
Connecting volunteers from the branch to those who are keen to have a chat with someone over the phone, the scheme has ensured members and those utilising the service can benefit from talking to someone on a weekly basis.
It has also resulted in new friendships and brought together members from across different generations, including 99-year-old Ethel Lote, a former Second World War nurse, and Grace Anderton, a 27-year-old trainee mental health nurse.
Grace became a member of the Aldridge branch last September and joined the Legion alongside her parents.
She said: "I felt very welcomed by the members straight away and wanted to help support the local armed forces community and the poppy appeal."
Now part of the branch telephone buddy service, Grace has been speaking with Ethel, a former nurse who worked at the Burntwood Military Hospital from 1940 to 1946 and treated the first convoy of Dunkirk soldiers coming back from the beaches.
Grace said: "I wanted to be proactive in the welfare side of the branch's work and felt this service was a great way to keep members connected during isolation and provide a friendly chat away from virus talk.
“Ethel is truly amazing! I could listen to her stories for hours when we talk and it’s lovely to discuss how different her training was in wartime compared to my current experience. I always look forward to my call with her and I feel it’s not only beneficial for Ethel in having someone to call her – but for me too during such uncertain times.”
Ethel, who will be celebrating her 100th birthday in November, spoke about why it was important to stay connected: “Before having to isolate, I was still giving talks to those who wanted to know more about my experiences of treating those that came back from the war in Europe, having been a nurse at the local military hospital.
“Therefore, although I’ve been stuck at home, having Grace calling me up and other members ensuring I am ok has been really appreciated. I have even learnt to video chat thanks to my son’s help and managed to speak face-to-face with Grace, which was just lovely.”
While this is not a new service, since Covid-19 there is a higher awareness of the impact of social isolation and more people are now affected. The Royal British Legion Branches can therefore make calls to anyone affected by the pandemic, not just those in the Armed Forces community, as part of the legion’s role in providing community support.
Volunteers for the service likewise do not have to be a member. Once someone has volunteered, they will be put in touch with their local branch who will then match them up with someone who needs companionship, but that doesn’t mean they need to join the branch.
For more information about the telephone buddy scheme contact The Royal British Legion on 0808 802 8080 or visit the website britishlegion.org.uk for further details.