Friends and Neighbours

I was invited to write an article for the magazine and I would love to tell you about the Saturday FAN Group that  meets in URC and invite you to come and meet us. Have you heard of FAN Groups?  FAN stands for Friends and Neighbours?  Who is my friend?  Who is my neighbour?  A FAN Group is a good way to help lonely people to feel they have friends and neighbours.

FAN Groups started in Cardiff nearly 15 years ago and there are now many weekly meetings in different parts of the city.  The FAN Group meet each Saturday morning at 11 am in an upstairs room.  People of all backgrounds and faiths, local people and newcomers to the City are welcome. Some of us come early to the Saturday Café where your volunteers have always made us welcome and offered tea, coffee and biscuits!

FAN Groups are not a conversation group – they are ‘listening groups’.  Someone different starts each week and we listen carefully to each speaker in turn.  No-one speaks again except the person who starts the meeting.
It is a great way of making sure each person has the opportunity to say what matters to them – and it stops some talkers (like myself!) from dominating the conversation.  We chat before and after the meeting is closed.

We have had people from over 100 countries attending FAN Meetings since they started in 2003.  Now we find many local people enjoy coming.  We seem to get newcomers to the City in waves at different times of the year.  Then we feel sad as they leave us.  Some may be with us years and some go back home but always we hope with friendship in their hearts – that is what they tell us – for people they have met and who extended a hand of friendship to them – in Wales.  Recently a new FAN Group started in Edinburgh – in the Quaker Meeting House in the oldest part of the city.  If you know anyone who may enjoy it and could support it – do tell them about FAN.

A FAN Meeting is a wonderful way to meet people.  It is important to hear about one another’s lives. Anyone can say if something important happened in their week.  Maybe someone has had a loss or something good has happened and in a short FAN meeting they share it and we support each other.

No-one has to speak – they can listen.  One woman came for 6 months before she spoke.  She had little English but was friendly and helpful.  One day when we thought she spoke for the first time and said… ‘You are my family now!’  We were greatly moved as this woman was a refugee from her country.  We also have British friends who have been going through difficult times.  It is great when the younger people are able to come and let us know of their dreams and the exam results!

We would love it if some of you could come to a FAN meeting on a Saturday morning.  No-one has to come regularly – no-one will expect you to be there or be put out if you are not.  The beauty of it is you come when YOU want or need to be with others.  Why not give us a try – and help us to be sure there is a place in Cardiff for lonely people to find a welcome?  Maybe that is what the Good Samaritan story is all about – a willingness to smile at a stranger who soon becomes a friend.

To know more about us – you can look us up on thefancharity.org or look for TheFANGroup on Facebook if you are on FB.  Hope to see you one
Saturday!  Best wishes for Christmas and the New Year.  Most important of all Saturday FAN Group send thanks to your warm and friendly volunteers.

Gill Saunders

 

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