Do you want to make a difference to the lives of children living in your area in 2011? Could you give four hours a week to help children and young people who are desperate for someone to listen? Do you live within a 20 mile radius of Exeter? Then the South West ChildLine base would like to hear from you.
ChildLine, a service provided by the NSPCC, is the UK’s free, confidential 24-hour helpline for children and young people who need help and support. Thanks to public support of the charity’s Child’s Voice Appeal, which was launched in 2008 to raise £50 million nationally to answer more cries for help through its national services, ChildLine and the NSPCC Helpline, ChildLine now provides online counselling as well as the phone service.
Giving children a choice of ways to contact the service makes them feel comfortable and in control of the conversation. ChildLine is now there for children, however and whenever they need help – by phone, through email, online message boards or one-to-one chats with counsellors.
Volunteer counsellors are at the heart of the helpline. In 2009/10 counsellors at the South West ChildLine base in Exeter, one of the smallest in the country, helped more than 5,000 children with worries about a range of issues from bullying to serious abuse.
The Exeter base currently has 82 volunteer counsellors and would like to recruit and train a further 45 in 2011 in a bid to meet the demand for counselling from children in distress or danger.
ChildLine volunteer co-ordinator, Alison Gordon, told the Devon Week: “ChildLine can literally be a lifeline, so we want to be able to answer all cries for help. But to do this we need more volunteers. We are currently looking for people to train as volunteer counsellors and switchboard operators – we especially need help on Friday and Sunday evenings but have other shifts available too. No previous counselling experience is needed.”
“Anyone over the age of 16 can volunteer, whatever age, gender, race, religion, sexual orientation or physical ability. Our volunteers are ordinary people doing something extraordinary, and without them we would not exist. If you can offer just four hours a week of your time in 2011, we would love to hear from you.”
Full training and support is provided, and in return volunteers are asked to commit to a minimum of 12 months.
Debbie from Kentisbeare has been a volunteer counsellor at ChildLine for nearly five years. Debbie said: ”During my time at ChildLine I have been given opportunities to attend continuous training, for example in mentoring and interviewing skills, that have not only complemented my work at ChildLine, but also my own professional development. The support and supervision afforded to volunteers at ChildLine is second to none and allows us to grow and develop every day. I am made to feel really valued and would highly recommend enquiring about joining our team.”
Chris, from Paignton, has been a volunteer counsellor at the Exeter base for seven years. She said: “To those who are thinking about becoming a volunteer counsellor at ChildLine, I would say come to a volunteer information meeting and find out more about what’s involved. Give it some thought, then go for it. Now is an exciting time to become part of the ChildLine service and you’d be joining a very supportive team.
“If you would like to make your new year’s resolution a weekly gift to local children, then please get in touch.”
Regular volunteer information meetings are held in Exeter, and this week staff and volunteers from the base will be handing out information leaflets in Exeter’s city centre. To find out more, or to book a place at an information meeting, call 0844 892 0205 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Children and young people can contact ChildLine by phoning 0800 1111 or by accessing the website.