Nineteen year old Caitlin Wilson is studying social and behavioural sciences at Belfast Met, with a view to progressing to a degree in Social Work. She lives in Belfast with her family but describes how she has met a “new family” at the Childline base in Belfast where she started to volunteer in August this year.
Speaking of this new role, Caitlin said: “I made the decision to volunteer with Childline, because this is the kind of work I want to do for the rest of my life. I want to help those in our society who are most vulnerable and I believe that many young people are in that position. However, you can join Childline for a multitude of reasons – Perhaps you want to help the community, or you want to gain experience of working with young people, maybe you want to meet and form friendships with other volunteers, or all of these things. The most important thing is that you get to be a part of something good; something that helps children who need it and that’s the most rewarding thing.
“The training at Childline was extremely interesting and helpful and from day one, I was learning so many things I never even considered before. The trainers are the most encouraging people! They provide a space for you to push yourself out of your comfort zone, to praise you in your strengths and help you improve your weaknesses. The training included role play to try to help us practise what we were learning as well as observation shifts where we would watch volunteers work, and monitored shifts where supervisors would watch us work. The trainers were great, answering my questions and everything I learned in training has served me well, every time I’m on shift.
“The minimum amount of volunteering is one shift of four hours a week for one year. For me, as a student, that is extremely doable. In fact, sometimes I find myself wanting to do multiple shifts a week. I think that for most people, this minimum amount of time required is very possible, and so I would really encourage anyone to put that time into helping children who need it.
“The highlight of my role is just hearing the young people being supported by Childline. At the end of each contact, we ask for a response and usually, the reply is extremely positive: “I feel so relaxed now”, “I really needed that”, “Thank you so much for all your help”, “Can I talk to you again?” – this is just some of the feedback that I’ve received at the end of conversations. Honestly, each time I hear this, it really makes my day but most importantly, it’s obvious that the children are feeling better.
“I am constantly struck by just how often the issue of lockdown is mentioned by the children who contact us. Clearly, it’s had a really detrimental effect on those with mental health issues, those who are living with the threat of physical abuse and even just young people generally not understanding what the outcome of COVID-19 is going to be. I have noticed a definite increase in the amount of contacts with each lockdown and we really need more people to volunteer to provide vital support to these children.“
Last year, between April 1 and September 30, Childline delivered 653 counselling sessions with children from Northern Ireland where mental and emotional health was their main concern. 2020 was a difficult year for us all and as we enter into a new year, now is the perfect time to take control and take on a new challenge by considering volunteering for the NSPCC service Childline. The COVID-19 pandemic has had a negative impact on this situation, leading to a significant reduction in the number of active volunteers attending shifts regularly. Childline is now delivering the service with 50% of the pre COVID-19 active volunteer numbers. By dedicating some of your free time, you can help keep vital services like Childline running, raising funds to help adapt to whatever challenges 2021 may throw at us.
Caitlin concludes: “ The volunteers at Childline are of all ages and from all walks of life, so there’s no need to be afraid of feeling like the odd one out in terms of age or experience. I would encourage anyone who is interested to get in touch for more information. Why not make a New Year Resolution to do something to help young people and be a part of something good!”
For information on how to volunteer for Childline, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org