I started volunteering on the SARSAS helpline in the spring of 2015 and I’m now a shift supervisor so I get to help look after the volunteers.
When I used to tell people what I did volunteering, most people asked if it was hard listening to the type of calls that we receive. I would tell them that if anything I always felt inspired by everyone I talked to. The resilience and vulnerability they showed by reaching out to and sharing their experience with us is such a courageous thing to do.
There is no example of an average call, each caller is an individual. Sometimes we talk about what has happened, sometimes we’re giving information about trauma, and some of the calls aren’t directly related to what has happened at all: I’ve had callers who want to discuss everything from political issues to Ru Paul’s Drag Race! It can be as simple as just listening to someone and providing reassurance, something anyone can do.
I also felt so lucky to have a weekly session with other volunteers and a shift supervisor surrounded by tea and biscuits. Even if I had a bad day or we had a shift that was particularly heavy, the volunteers and my shift supervisor made sure I was OK just by being there and listening to me. It was a safe space to share ideas and resources, again not always related to SARSAS’s main topics, I’ve had some great book recommendations and my shift were all running so they inspired me to start running! It was such a powerful feeling to be around like-minded women who shared similar thoughts and feelings on a lot of issues, they just got it. Volunteering was something I looked forward to every week, I always left happier after my shift, and I found it really grounding. I got so much out of it by just being surrounded by the SARSAS community.
During the start of the pandemic, I was furloughed from my job, so I picked up an extra helpline shift. I managed to speak to a lot of people due to more callers using the helpline, the issue of justice came up a lot, and it made me incredibly angry about the criminal justice system. This led to me applying to do law at Uni, at the same time the SARSAS were looking for a new shift supervisor and I decided to go for it. I feel incredibly lucky that I got into Uni and I got the job and now I get to do something I feel so strongly about as a job!
I am inspired and so grateful for my SARSAS colleagues, the incredible volunteers I get to work with, and all the people who have ever used our services. They have taught me so much and make me feel motivated to work hard. Volunteering at SARSAS has changed my life, it has given me a whole new perspective. It has led to me studying an area where I hope to be able to use everything I have learnt from SARSAS and the people we support to make a big difference.
I cannot recommend volunteering enough, not only do you help other people, but it can do great things for you too!