Although she has taken some “really hard calls” during her first year volunteering, Childline volunteer Lauren Dolan says she finds the work hugely rewarding
Like many people, Lauren Dolan was unsure of whether she would have the requisite tools to cope with working as a Childline volunteer.
A mother herself, she found that the organisation’s ethos, which is child-centred, non-directive, and non-judgemental, was in line with her own beliefs, but recalls thinking: “How is the training going to equip me?”
Despite being understandably nervous taking her first call, she soon discovered that her fears were unfounded.
“The training is fantastic. I found that it was of a very high standard. There’s a huge amount of time invested by Childline, and by the volunteer as well. But the thing is, everybody there has the common interest, everybody wants to have the training and wants to be well-equipped to do the position,” she says.
Lauren explains that she has taken some “really hard calls” from children as young as five years old in her first year as a volunteer, with the issues covered varying from physical abuse, bullying, unplanned pregnancies, and parents who drink or abuse drugs.
“A lack of food is actually one that I’ve had a lot lately, kids who are hungry, which is very sad,” she notes.
However, Lauren is keen to stress that Childline is not just there for children suffering from ‘bigger problems’ but is there to listen to children, whatever their need.
“There’s a lot of different calls; you have kids that are lonely, so they might call for a chat, which is totally fine too. It doesn’t necessarily have to be a big problem any more, that’s not the sole focus.”
Such work carries grave responsibilities with it, but Lauren does not seek to portray herself or her fellow volunteers as selfless or as martyrs. The relationship, she maintains, is mutually beneficial.
“I’m happy to say there are lots of things I like about volunteering with Childline. Mostly, I think, the opportunity to be there for children when they need their voice to be heard, when they need to be listened to confidentially,” she says.
“It’s not just listening, but actively listening, really listening. I think that’s probably one of the main skills that you learn, and I have found it invaluable with my kids, and my family, and my friends. To actually learn that skill of actively listening to someone, it’s just a gift, and I think when you can give that to the kids, it’s incredible, because they get so much from that.”
With the organisation receiving less than ten per cent State funding, its volunteers are without doubt its greatest resource. Childline asks that its volunteers make an honorary commitment of two years’ volunteering and Lauren says that while this may seem intimidating at the outset, it rarely proves to be a constraint.
“I would have to say that, one year on, if anything, I’m more involved now, and want to be more involved, because it’s like a family in a way. The support within the organisation is huge.
“You don’t come in and clock out, you know? You become connected to the organisation. So, even though the two years seems long, I think most people would say it just becomes part of what you do.”