Lifeline call-out for “lived, lost and loved” volunteers
Lifeline Orange has made a call-out for more volunteers to help keep the local telephone counselling service going.
The local service is seeking applicants for a new training course to lift the number of volunteers from the current level of only about 24. Men, who make up only about one on six “crisis support workers” at Orange, are particularly encouraged to apply.
The qualifications are simple, Lifeline Supervisor and Trainer Jodie William said: “Our CEO often says that, it is, if you’ve lived, lost and loved and have a desire to help others.”
Long-time volunteers of the service say that the surprising benefits of volunteering with Lifeline is the thing that keeps them going.
“I feel extraordinarily privileged to make a difference to someone’s life,” long-time crisis support worker Wendy Barrett said. “My family say that it’s made an amazing difference to my listening skills,” she added. “I feel extraordinarily privileged to make a difference to people’s lives.”
The service is always seeking to keep-up their counselling numbers to about 40 per centre to cover for the natural attrition that comes with any volunteer group requiring a high-degree of commitment.
“It’s a fairly intensive training program. A lot of people start with good intentions and end-up feeling it’s not for them,” volunteer Sue Olden explained.
She says that constant variety is a feature of the work “It’s challenging, you never know who is going to be calling-in; on the flipside it’s also very rewarding personally,” Sue revealed. “I joined in the last intake, I used to volunteer at the Wayside Chapel in Sydney… I made a conscious decision once I retired to do something that put-back into the community,” she said.
Jodie said that new volunteers are always required by Lifeline due to the natural attrition of volunteer work. “Volunteering is on the decline; people get full-time jobs and other things in their life,” she said.
“Because the vast majority of our volunteers are female, we are encouraging more men to volunteer.” Scholarships, Jodie said, are available for those that wish to train with the group. “We also have subsidies for others wishing to take on the training,” she added.
Training starts with a weekend ASIST (Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Training) course with e-learning for seven weeks followed by four-hours face-to-face training.
“A lot of our volunteers are retired people, shift workers… workers have to do a minimum of 92 hours a year, most people do about three hours a week,” Jodie explained.
“As well as retirees; it’s also the ideal type of volunteer work for psychology students and trainee nurses, that sort of thing,” Sue said.
Karren Skelton believes that she gets as much out of volunteering as she puts in: “It’s satisfaction, I never know what the calls are going to be… and there are great friendships with the other volunteers,” she said.
“It’s the bond you have being able to in being able to help others who have suffered the same thing,” Sue said.
Karren says, despite suggestions that not everyone has the temperament for such work, almost anyone can become a crisis support worker. “One of the important things is that all the volunteers bring something different to the table.”
Volunteer Jane Poole says the work is demanding but also highly-rewarding at the same time: “It’s a privilege to be able to ‘walk along’ with people in their time of crisis.”
Jodie says that volunteers often go into the work simply wanting to contribute and are surprised at how satisfying they find it. “People want to give back, but they find them get so much out of it themselves. It really improves relationships and the ability to relate to other people,” she believes.
Volunteers are also given constant and continuing support in their work which normally involves about eight calls in a three-hour shift. An in-shift support person is always available for volunteers with a chat before each shift and a debrief at the end of each session.
“I feel comfortable that I have great support here all of the time, we’re a family,” Wendy said.