JULIE Beverstock is on a mission - one she intends to pursue for as long as she is able to defy the disease that is killing her.

The 57-year-old, of Pontnewynydd, Pontypool, was diagnosed with pulmonary fibrosis - which gradually causes lung tissue to scar and harden - four years ago.

It has robbed her of her mobility and made her increasingly housebound. But as her world diminished, so a determination to make herself useful - in part to ease the boredom she felt - grew.

So last year, Mrs Beverstock joined the ranks of volunteers for Ffrind I Mi, the award-winning befriending service launched in 2017 by Aneurin Bevan University Health Board to help combat loneliness.

Armed with a telephone and unquenchable enthusiasm that belies her health difficulties, Mrs Beverstock is currently a volunteer befriender to three people.

"I sat here and I thought 'I'm not dead yet, and I'm so bored - there must be something I can do'," said Mrs Beverstock, who is also registered blind, having lost her sight almost a decade ago.

"I'd heard of Ffrind I Mi, and made some inquiries. Claire and Kath (from Ffrind I Mi) visited me.

"They said there were two days of training in Newport. I wouldn't have been able to do that, but they came to do it in the house instead. They bent over backwards for me, and I'm very grateful."

Mrs Beverstock lives with husband Mike. They have two sons - Richard, who lives in Dorset, and Michael, who lives in Blaenavon. They also have two grandchildren, and two dogs - Megan and Moo.

A former housekeeper and deputy hotel manager who worked at the Hilton in Newport and Cwmbran's Parkway, Mrs Beverstock was later an assistant project manager for the WRVS - now the Royal Voluntary Service.

"That was brilliant, and I loved it most working at Nevill Hall Hospital, with a team of volunteers," she said.

"It was always my aim, if someone came in and seemed a bit miserable, a bit down, to try to get a smile out of them.

"With Ffrind I Mi, it's brilliant. The people I talk to are very different characters, and we have such a good time.

"I've also been trying to persuade one of them to become a volunteer. It's such a fantastic service. Even if it's just one person, and they in turn got someone else, and so on. Suddenly all these people aren't lonely.

South Wales Argus:

'THIS HAS GIVEN ME A PURPOSE: Julie Beverstock with her dogs Megan and Moo. Picture -


"Originally I was just going to do it on Mondays, but it is now Monday and Tuesday. Some people just need a couple of minutes, others a bit more.

"I've got something out of it too. I was lonely, sitting here on my own. I'm not lonely anymore.

"I used to go to the day hospital at St David's Hospice Care. When you go down there, you would think people in our situation would be miserable and sad, but no.

"When you're on your own you tend to think all sorts - is there life after death, that sort of thing - but when you're together it becomes a bit of a joke and in the end we just laugh at it.

"We're not dead yet - I want a t-shirt with 'I'm not dead yet' printed on it - so why just sit there and let it happen?

"When I was diagnosed, I was told I had two-five years, but was realistically looking at around two. Fours years on, I'm still going.

"I felt there was definitely more I could do - I've always been a glass half full girl, not a glass half empty girl, and I just wanted to give something back, because I've had amazing help and treatment from the NHS.

"Ffrind I Mi gives me that opportunity. It's given me purpose because I feel I'm contributing, and it's important to feel you still have worth. Without that, I think it would be harder."

*For more information on Ffrind I Mi - including details on volunteering as a befriender - visit www.ffrindimi.co.uk