The Belfast Childline base is urging people across Northern Ireland to volunteer for the service.
Between April 1 and September 30, 2020, Childline delivered 653 counselling sessions with children from Northern Ireland where their mental and emotional health was their main concern.
Now, volunteer co-ordinator Heather Cardosi who lives outside Hillsborough, Co Down, is urging more people to consider following her own path into voluntary work for Childline.
Heather, who has spent the last 14 years working at the Childline Belfast base after she swapped a career working in corporate banking for a role that protects and supports children, says she loves the variety of her role.
Heather said: “When I graduated from university, I worked in corporate banking and took a career break when I had my children. I had a long interest in studying counselling and having my boys inspired me to change job direction.
“Belfast Childline has such a great team spirit among the staff and volunteers. No two days are ever the same. I could be delivering online information sessions to students, taking part in Zoom volunteer interviews, organising marketing activities and speaking to my colleagues in other Childline bases about an online conference hosted by Dame Esther Rantzen, the Childline founder.”
In spite of the spread of coronavirus and the UK going into lockdown in March this year, the base has remained open and Heather and her team of volunteers have experienced a rise in young people calling the service about their mental health and wellbeing.
Heather added: “The Childline service has remained available for children throughout the pandemic. Coronavirus presented a real challenge.
“Due to lockdown, many volunteers were unable to give shifts in the base, so measures were put in place across the service such as enhancing the Childline website to provide additional support for young people. We also put in social distancing measures and increased hygiene and cleaning standards in place to keep
those who are able to come to the base safe.
“Between April and August, over half of calls from young people were about their mental health. They also talked to us about family relationships, many of which have deteriorated during lockdown when schools closed and many felt isolated from friends.
“There are a myriad of other issues as everysituation is different. We found young people just want someone to listen, and support to help change their situation.”
Despite the many challenges COVID-19 and lockdown have brought, Childline Belfast is still recruiting volunteers and in need of more help than ever. Heather encourages anyone who has four hours available a week to consider volunteering for the service.
Heather said: “We have continued recruiting volunteers and have received many applications from people who are re-evaluating their lives due to change in circumstances and want to do something worthwhile such as volunteer.
“Childline provides first-class counselling induction training for volunteers, so they are fully prepared to go into the counselling room and take phone calls and online chats from young people. Prospective volunteers don’t need any previous counselling experience – our training is interactive and there are plenty of opportunities to practice skills in a safe environment. We have adapted our training so it is a mix of virtual and face to face sessions.
“If you would like to volunteer, have four hours a week spare and can travel to the Belfast base, then please get in touch.
“Our volunteer role includes great training, support on shift from supervisors and a real sense of making a positive difference to young people’s lives. We are recruiting now for training starting in January 2021.”
If you’re interested in volunteering or signing up to one of the NSPCC’s webinars, please visit: