The Stroke Association has launched a new ‘Here For You’ telephone service with support in Punjabi, Bengali, Urdu, Hindi, Tamil and Malayalam.

The brand new service helps combat loneliness and isolation by providing stroke survivors and their carers with regular telephone support. 

The charity says it can offer support through our current volunteers in English, Welsh, French, German, Mandarin, Punjabi, Bengali, Hebrew, Japanese, Dutch, Italian, Arabic, Spanish, Swedish, Urdu, Portuguese, Somali, Hindi, Shona, Tamil, Turkish and Malayalam. Support in BSL over video call is also currently available. The service is only available to people in the UK.

Bridget Bergin, Executive Director of Stroke Support Services at the Stroke Association said: “Stroke survivors have told us that one of the most important things that helps them with their recovery is speaking to other stroke survivors, but also just having someone to talk to is important.”

One in five people with long-term conditions including stroke have not left the house since mid-March(ii) and over half (58%) of clinically extremely vulnerable people are continuing to shield even as lockdown eases). Many stroke survivors live with comorbidities or are over-70 and have been advised to shield.

Anita Tank, 51, a Punjabi speaker from Derby, joined the Here for You scheme as a volunteer after her Husband, Billy, had a stroke which left him with aphasia when he was just 49.

Anita said: “Billy’s stroke was totally out of the blue and a massive shock. We were so lucky that we lived close to the hospital, so the ambulance arrived quickly. The care he received then and in the months after his stroke has been amazing.”

Following Billy’s stroke Anita, joined Here for You after her daughter, Priya, who also volunteers, recommended it. 

Anita said: “Volunteering for Here for You is so rewarding. You could be that person that makes a real difference to someone’s day and every day is different. You’re not there to judge, you’re just there to listen and guide where you can. It’s journey and every day is really different.”

Anita provides support in Punjabi, which makes a real difference to stroke survivors where English isn’t their first language:

“I think speaking Punjabi helps stroke survivors from the Asian community open up to me more, they feel more conformable and can say what they’re feeling more too.”

Anita is now encouraging others to get involved in Here for You and feels her own experiences of stroke have helped develop her knowledge too.

“You never feel that something like a stroke will ever happen to you or someone you love, so whatever you have experienced, you can use. I have learnt so much just talking to people about their experiences.

“It’s all about listening to someone, having that general conversation and letting them lead the conversation. Sometimes you have to do a lot more of the talking, sometimes you listen more. Either way you have to adapt yourself to whoever you’re talking to and that’s great!”

“Here for you is really rewarding and you learn new skills all the time.”

Stroke survivors and their carers can sign up for a half hour phone call, weekly, for 12 weeks with a trained Stroke Association volunteer.

The coronavirus pandemic has meant that all 215 Stroke Association groups have been unable to meet, denying stroke survivors the vital peer to peer support for over four months. The charity is still unsure when these groups will be able to start up their face-to-face meetings again.

Volunteers are expected to make one, 30 minute phone call per week for twelve weeks and also to attend a two hour online training session, in English, delivered by the Stroke Association. Whilst people need to have experience of stroke personally or as a carer to undertake the lived experience telephone support volunteer role, the ‘Connect and Chat’ volunteer role is open to anyone regardless of stroke experience.

Juliet Bouverie, Here for You volunteer and Chief Executive of the Stroke Association, said: “No stroke survivor should feel alone as every stroke survivor deserves the best chance with their recovery. 

"I’m a volunteer supporting two stroke survivors around the UK. I look forward to our weekly calls and we get on really well. It’s so rewarding to know that I can make a direct positive impact on someone’s life. Each week I notice how their confidence and speech are improving and I’m also learning new ways of getting better at supporting them too. It makes a difference to my mood and wellbeing too.

“Demand for the service is already huge and we urgently need more volunteers. You don’t need to be a stroke survivor to volunteer. You’ll be helping people in the early days after their stroke or stroke survivors who may be feeling lonely or isolated and just in need of a chat.”

To sign up to Here for You if you’re feeling lonely, isolated and in need of a chat, or to volunteer visit Stroke Association click here or call the Stroke Helpline: 0303 3033 100.