Co Antrim woman urges more people to volunteer with charity
A woman who was sexually abused as a child and now volunteers with Childline is urging other people to offer their time to the charity.
Louise Morris (42) from Co Antrim said Childline would have been “invaluable” to her when she was abused between the ages of 11 and 13.
Ms Morris said she always had a deep desire to help vulnerable children and young people.
“When I had my eldest son at a young age, I tried to complete a college course in Health and Social Care. But with a young child, I believed earning money to provide for him was the most important thing to do at that time so was not able to continue. As the years went by and I had more children, I felt it wouldn’t be fair to put the financial pressure of university courses in counselling on my family, so it became more and more out of reach."
The mother-of-five went on to volunteer with several NSPCC services in safeguarding and witness support and put her name forward for Childline in early 2020 after realising the charity did not ask that volunteers have a background in counselling or social work and provide full training.
Despite her training being pushed back because of the pandemic, Ms Morris eventually went through the “very thorough” process over Zoom. She now works at the charity’s Belfast base, one of 12 across the UK where calls from children and young people across the UK are answered.
“What struck me most about my first time at the base was how relaxed the atmosphere is in the counselling room. I was expecting tension and a constant hive of activity but that is so far from what it’s like,” she said.
“It has a calming effect when you walk in. Obviously there can be heightened moments and adrenaline when a high-risk call comes in, but you know there are always two supervisors in the room to step in and help guide you through a call. You are never alone when you need help.”
Childline asks successful applicants to commit to a minimum 4.25 hours a week but shifts are flexible and allow Ms Morris to work around her family life several weeks in advance, she said.
“In my short time I’ve been on shift, I have had a wide range of calls but the majority have been about mental health. The pandemic has had a hugely negative effect on youth today. Some calls can be upsetting and you wish you could do more but when a young person thanks and tells you how much better they feel at the end of the call, you get a real lift knowing you have made a difference,” she said.
“If you have about four hours a week to spare, what better way to use that time to help support and empower the next generation? Today’s children and young people have dealt with so much because of the pandemic and living under tighter lockdown restrictions. Now, more than ever, they need people to be there for them and volunteering for Childline could help make a huge difference.”
More information about volunteering for Childline Belfast is available at the NSPCC website by searching ‘Childline Volunteer’, by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or calling 02820 441641.
Children can contact Childline every day of the week on 0800 11 11 or via childline.org.uk. Anyone with concerns about the welfare of a child can call the NSPCC Helpline on 0808 800 5000 or visit nspcc.org.uk for advice.