New friendships in a virtual world
Keith Clancy, a resident member of the Peabody Community Foundation Board, talks about his experiences of befriending during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Coronavirus has had a profound effect on all our lives. In amongst all the challenges, we have seen the amazing spirit, courage and determination of so many: from NHS staff and keyworkers to ordinary people coming together to make this experience just that little bit more bearable.
Peabody's remote befriending programme
We have seen wonderful and meaningful friendships forged through our remote befriending programme. One such alliance is that of Keith Clancy, resident Peabody Community Foundation Board member, and one of our residents Julia*.
Keith Clancy, Peabody Community Foundation Board member
Keith was one of the first Board members to get in touch and offer his support. Although he lives with a sight impairment, he knew he wanted to do something so he signed up to become a remote befriender, offering a listening ear to residents who might be feeling lonely or isolated.
Painting the picture
Keith takes up the story: "Julia and I have something in common, we both have an illness. Mine is serious - in my eyes. Julia’s illness is also serious. Serious enough for her to document her journey through a series of pictures, letting her feelings speak back to her in paint.
"We are both locked down by COVID-19. In my case, I do not want to go out in the street alone in case I frighten people by accidentally invading their social distancing space because I am not able to see well. In Julia's case, she cannot get COVID-19 - full stop."
Being matched as a befriender/befriendee pair has been the start of a friendship that Keith and Julia know will outlast the pandemic.
A growing friendship
Keith continues: "Julia has a dream. She would like an artist's space to be able to paint and she paints with oils. She has a background in psychology and she puts that into her image as well as romance - the internal experience expressed in the external land of the canvas through colour and shade.
"In Julia's painting, you see a woman's hope to uplift our world. This was the world that opened up in our conversation when, through the befriending programme, Julia and I began to share our lives."
Julia has always painted a lot but never at home as the oil gives off powerful odours which are not ideal in the small Peabody home she shares with her family of nearly grown-up boys. As their friendship has developed over the past few weeks, Julia has shared her paintings and Keith and his wife have shared recipes from their travels around the world, especially from his wife's home region of Northern Italy.
"Before we knew it our conversations became shared cooking spaces; Julia in her kitchen cooking for her family whilst we chop and stir our way through an Italian risotto recipe of white wine rice with red wine sausage," says Keith.
He adds: "You never know who is part of the Peabody family; you just never can predict where a friendship will take you. Julia, my wife and I are not volunteers supporting each other anymore because of COVID-19. We have become good friends who now know each other because the world has had a long-awaited outburst of goodwill. Long may the era of goodwill remain."
Keith and his wife hope to meet Julia in person one day. For now, they are enjoying their new friendship and Keith and his wife continue to love learning about Julia's passion for painting.
*Julia’s name has been changed to protect her identity