'Children need our help' says Childline volunteer
A LISBURN woman is urging others to consider volunteering for the NSPCC-run service after she decided to dedicate her spare time to helping children and young people during lockdown.
Iris Brennan, 54, originally from Israel, lives in Lisburn with her partner and says lockdown helped her take the plunge and finally swap her job working in retail for a career in counselling which led to her volunteering at the Belfast Childline base.
Figures revealed more than 900 counselling sessions on mental health have been delivered to children from Northern Ireland since the start of the first lockdown.
The data from the NSPCC-run service reported more than 55,000 counselling sessions across the UK that were focused on this issue and also a rise in the number of 16-18-year-olds getting in touch from Northern Ireland.
Iris said: “When we all went into lockdown in March 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic, I embraced the opportunity to reflect on a new career path and decided to take the plunge to pursue a career in counselling.
“I’ve always been interested in helping children and young people, so in autumn 2020, I decided to become a Childline volunteer alongside studying a course in Trauma Informed Counselling with Children and Young People. I really want to help as many children as possible and gain knowledge and experience at the same time so it felt like the perfect opportunity.”
Iris describes volunteering for Childline as ‘the most rewarding’ work she has ever done.
Iris said: “At the start of my journey with Childline, naturally, I felt overwhelmed but I was reassured that everyone feels that way at the beginning but I quickly got over feeling that after a few shifts.
“I love the fact during every shift, I feel so supportive with the supervisors at hand to help. I personally feel this is very important as it allows you to learn a lot and at the same time deliver a great service in a safe, secure environment. It’s the most rewarding work I’ve ever done.”
Since joining Childline as a volunteer, Iris says she has received many coronavirus-related calls.
Iris said: “At the minute, many children are feeling anxious and isolated from friends due to the closure of schools and the future feeling uncertain. The pandemic is causing a lot of anxiety and having someone to talk to on the other end of the phone can make a huge difference.
“One thing I have learned is that you don’t need to be a counsellor or expert, you just need to be yourself. If I’m ever feeling unsure, I know to ask for help as there is always someone there to support you.”
Iris says the main highlight of her volunteering role is knowing how much she has helped a young person in need.
She said: “The highlight of any shift is knowing how much I’ve helped a young person when they say thank you. It really warms my heart and I go home feeling happy knowing I’ve helped someone feel better. Nothing is more rewarding than that.
“I would encourage others out there who have a few hours spare a week to think about volunteering for Childline. Now, more so than ever, children and young people need our help and you can help make a difference in their lives.”
At NSPCC, we’re constantly inspired by the courage and resilience of children and young people, but we can’t be there for every one of them without your help.
We have seen communities come together during the pandemic, and it’s that sense of community we’re appealing to as we move into 2021 and beyond, because we all have a role to play in keeping children safe.
Whether you can help us by fundraising or donating to ensure our counsellors can answer calls, emails or messages from young people when they need Childline the most, or you can spare four hours a week to volunteer at your local Childline base, you’ll have our thanks and the gratitude of thousands of children and young people across the country.
Every £4 donated to Childline allows one of our volunteers to answer calls from a child in their darkest hour, and with a child making contact on average every 25 seconds, the demand is clear.
We’re here for children, and we’ll continue to be here for children. But we need your help. You can find out how you can support us at:
For information on how to volunteer for Childline, please contact: