I ALWAYS knew that I wanted to volunteer with Childline. As soon as I turned 18, I signed up for the training and my first shift was on Christmas Day 10 years ago. I’ve never missed a Christmas Day since.
A decade on, I’m a youth worker based in Cork city and I’m studying for a Masters in Play Therapy, so I understand just how beneficial the Childline Listening Service can be for children and young people, giving them a voice and empowering them.
Childline is Ireland’s only 24/7 free listening service, and we’ve just launched a new national fundraising campaign called Let’s Sweat it Together, supported by rugby stars Caelan Doris and Brittany Hogan. The campaign was developed in response to the worries of callers to Childline.
We know from talking to children and young people that their worries range from sibling rivalry and differences in music tastes to exam anxiety, confusion about sexuality and concerns about a friend self-harming.
I believe that for the children and young people of Cork, their need to reach out and connect with someone is becoming increasingly urgent. I have noticed a big increase in the number of online engagements taking place during the last couple of months.
These conversations through our online chat service and through our Ask Alex chat have become increasingly serious, with self-harm a big issue. Anxiety, stress over exams and family disagreements are also being regularly discussed. For teens, body image and stress over social media is causing a lot of worry.
The Childline listening service is anonymous, and I think that really helps children and young people to express what’s on their mind to a supportive listener.
It’s always good to share worries. This spring, as part of the Let’s Sweat It Together campaign, we are asking schools, businesses and individuals to walk a lap while having a chat with a friend, family member or colleague.
It is the perfect initiative for schools, businesses, friends or family members. We listen to school students sharing their worries every day so we know how vital it is for children and young people to share what’s on their mind.
We’re also encouraging employers to give staff time during their working day to get outside and catch up with a friend in work or a family member at home. We all need time to check in with each other. Really listening to one another can make a huge difference to our mental health.
Caelan Doris and Brittany Hogan understand the importance of a listening ear. As a child, Brittany says that she was “desperate for someone to talk to but not sure how to approach it. Worries are so personal to each one of us and it is important to not bottle them up inside”.
Although Caelan had a different experience growing up, he understands the importance of sharing worries with loved ones. He says, “Growing up, I was lucky enough to be part of a team that chatted through our worries together – both on and off the pitch”.
He added that: “I am delighted to join Childline on this fantastic campaign and will be making sure that I will be completing my lap and chat with my family and friends, something that will be important for me to offload any worries that come with such a busy season.” We all have worries and at Childline, we know what an impact they can have on a child. All our volunteers have undergone comprehensive training and we are equipped to deal with whatever a child or young person might tell us. We work together in the unit and we have access to assistance ourselves 24/7 if we need it.
Some callers and situations are very challenging.
It can be very difficult to listen to children saying they have been neglected or abused.
They often don’t want to do anything about it, they just need a safe space where they can share what is going on for them and they just need someone to hear them.
I strongly believe that by being there in that moment when they need you, we can help. We can’t solve what is going on, but we can be there for them. Of course, if a child asks us to get assistance for them, we will.
It’s upsetting when I’m on a call and I see that others are seeking support too, each with their own reason for reaching out. But volunteering with Childline is so very rewarding and I’m happy to be helping children as I know how important it is for them to have someone to listen.
ISPCC needs to raise up to 75% of its funding each year from donations and relies on the generosity of people right across Ireland. The charity is grateful for all support which helps ensure its services and supports are available to children and young people 24 hours a day, every day.
To donate to Childline’s ‘Let’s Sweat it Together’ campaign or to find out more information on how to sign your school or business up, visit: https://ispcc.enthuse.com/profile