Childline volunteer Victoria Rose Mullan, from South Belfast, is giving up her Christmas holidays to help children and young people in need of support.
Over the festive period last year, the NSPCC’s ChildLine service in Northern Ireland counselled over 180 children who were in danger or distress and had nowhere else to turn.
Victoria Rose, a 19-year-old student from the Newtownbreda area, said: “There are many issues for young people at Christmas, from the extra pressure on families to get along — which in itself can make it even harder to do so, to those for whom Christmas is just another day, and doesn’t mean they get an easier time of it. Indeed for children who are in care or have lost a loved one, this can be a painful reminder of what they no longer have. I think it’s important that they don’t have to feel like they’re completely alone as well.
“I honestly haven’t really thought of it as a sacrifice, it’s not all doom and gloom at ChildLine and you’re never bored! You get a lot of really charismatic and intelligent young people calling and they really challenge you, and you respect them as individuals. I’d rather be here answering the phone than watching Christmas TV and eating too many sweets. The best gift I’ll give this Christmas is making a young person feel like they’re not alone and to me this doesn’t seem like a loss, it’s quite the opposite.”
Victoria Rose first became involved with the helpline nine months ago as a way to do “something worthwhile” on her gap year. “Now that I’m a volunteer, I couldn’t imagine leaving. I take voice calls, online chats and I do Private In Box (PIB) emails, which are like private emails that young people can send to a ChildLine counsellor via the website www.childline.org.uk and receive a personal reply.
“More recently I have had a few calls from young people who are homeless or have run away, and those calls immediately become about getting them somewhere safe.
“Of course I will always remember my first call. It was a young girl whose life was so complicated — she had experienced more mental trauma in her short life than many adults could handle, had life threatening health problems, was a victim of sexual abuse, suffered bereavement and was in the care system. The call had a good ending but I will never forget her little voice on the other end of the phone.”
Heather Cardosi, ChildLine volunteer coordinator, said: “We are so appreciative of those who willingly give up part of their Christmas to answer calls from children who are in desperate need of help.
To find out about volunteering with ChildLine go to www.nspcc.org.uk , or ring 0870 336 2945.