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Eve conquers her fears with Life Friends

Group of six people sit around a table drinking coffee and talking

Eve Ruth is warm and friendly. She’s a good listener and happy to have a chat – all the qualities that make for a good friend. But after managing a long illness, Eve found the friendships she once enjoyed had vanished.

An adult education programme in Hamilton called Life Friends has set her on the path to making and sustaining new connections.

“I have health issues that have basically kept me housebound for 20 years. And I really struggle because I was always an encourager and a helper and a doer for other people, and then there seemed to be no one there for me. So really for the last 17 years, I’ve been very ill and alone.”

A counsellor suggested she “find somewhere to fit in”.

“I tried a couple of groups that were very cliquey, so I didn’t mesh. I was reading the community education paper and I saw Life Friends and I thought I’d give it a go.”

Life Friends is a fortnightly programme delivered by Life Unlimited (now known as Your Way | Kia Roha) over five months. It’s designed to support people to build meaningful friendships by learning social skills and relationship-building skills.

“In the past, I’ve always been a friendly person and I find it easy to be friendly to people. I just don’t know how to carry on that friendliness to become a friend,” says Eve.

“And that’s what I was really interested in learning.”

It took a great deal of courage for Eve, who also manages anxiety, to join the programme in February.

“I was absolutely terrified walking through the door.

“Wendy was just so welcoming, and her big smile as I walked through the door was what I needed.”

Wendy van den Berg is the programme coordinator for Life Friends. She’s thrilled to see the changes in Eve.

“It’s really heart-warming to see people grow more confident and learn new skills over the course of the programme. Eve’s been really dedicated and willing to challenge herself and it’s good to see. The effort she puts in shows.”

For Eve the real value of the course was learning “to not be so afraid”.

“That’s how it’s changed for me. I was terrified to the point of anxiety where I find it hard to breathe. I don’t go very much anywhere. When I say housebound, that’s why – because of anxiety and because of health issues. One-on-one I’m great, but in a crowd, I’m not great.”

With her newfound confidence, Eve is on the lookout for a new challenge. She’s also committed to maintaining the friendships she’s built with others on the course.

“I think what I have learned is that I have to stay connected to these people if I want them to be connected to me.”

She’s also planning a big project – writing a memoir for her son.

“I’ve lived a life. I’m heading into the end of my 62nd year, so I’ve got a lot to tell and I just want to be able to share: when you trip up you can stand up.”

A new Life Friends programme at Fraser High School starts on 1 August. Visit the Your Way | Kia Roha website for more information.

Life Friends is delivered by the Community Services team at Life Unlimited Charitable Trust (now known as
Your Way | Kia Roha).

They provide a range of programmes that foster community participation and enable inclusion outcomes for all.

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