Thursday, 20 October 2011

Something worthwhile...

Eight months ago I was bored and looking for something to do. I typed into Google, "spare time", "useful" and "worthwhile" - then hit return.  Just below a link to Appalachian Clog Dancing and above another to Macramé Your Own Hammock sat the link to Missing People. As I can’t dance or tie a knot I clicked on Missing People’s website. If you’re reading this then I’m guessing you’ve seen the website yourself and know the mix of emotions looking at the faces of people who seemingly just disappear, can evoke.

Fast forward a couple of months and I’m attending my first weekly training session with other volunteers of different ages, experience and backgrounds. For one evening a week over a twelve-week period we learn about the missing issue. It’s not a big issue, it’s a huge issue, centered around the shock wave that hits the lives of ordinary people when a loved one disappears. Because of the complexities involved, the training packs a lot in. We’re introduced to the type of calls we’ll receive and the people who’ll make them: the police, the families of those left behind, the missing person as well as hoax and suicide calls, each needing to be listened to and supported in their own unique way. We assess risk, role play different scenarios, test and re-test what we’re learning.

By week six certain procedures are sticking to the flypaper of my memory while others zoom around like a flock of starlings - I’m relieved to find from my fellow volunteers that I’m not alone. The training’s fun and we’re well supported, but we’re also a little nervous about taking our first call. 

I approach my initial shift not with a sense of dread but terror. I’m petrified I’m going to say the wrong thing. When the first call comes through I listen and do my bit. Afterwards I’m told it’s gone well, although I thought I sounded like Mickey Mouse talking to Pluto. That was a few weeks ago - with each call I take it gets easier. Tomorrow I’ll be looking forward to my fourth shift, relieved that in the time it normally takes to macrame a hammock, I’ve learned skills that for me, personally, are far more worthwhile.

By Glenn P.
Helpline Volunteer at Missing People

Looking for a challenging role starting in the New Year? The charity Missing People is looking for passionate people with good listening skills and computer literacy to become helpline volunteers. To find out more about the role and complete the application, visit our website (Deadline: 8 December).

Thursday, 6 October 2011

Julie Etchingham: Little Boy Lost

Think of all that’s happened in the past twenty years. The death of Diana, 9/11, the rise and fall of New Labour, Iraq, Afghanistan,  the explosion of the internet, the financial boom and the economic bust. As all this has ebbed and flowed through our lives, one family has endured the seemingly never-ending torment of a child who went missing when he was just a toddler.

Close your eyes and you will probably remember his face. Ben Needham. The archetypal blond, blue-eyed boy was just 21 months old when he vanished, without trace, on the Greek island of Kos. There was no instant media to report it, no mobile phone network to set alight with it – and the police didn’t seem to care.

But Ben’s mother Kerry has never given up on what has become one of the longest-running missing persons cases in British history. And her patience and drive to find out about her son may be about to pay off. The investigation is being re-opened.

In a special ‘Tonight’ programme to be aired tonight, we follow Kerry as she makes an emotional return to Greece, where astonishingly, sightings are still being reported – even though Ben is now a grown man. She suffers the agony of DNA tests raising then dashing hopes, but also meets a doctor who is convinced he saw Ben at his hospital around 9 months after he disappeared.

Finally and dramatically – Kerry also meets the Public Prosecutor on Kos who tells her she is now prepared to look at the case afresh, harnessing all the new technology available. A charity has made posters of a digital image of Ben as he may look now. They are going up all over Greece – in the hope Ben may even recognise himself.

Like the family of Madeleine McCann who cling so desperately to the prospect of even the smallest breakthrough, Kerry’s steadfast hope is remarkable. The Foreign Office is backing her efforts and the head of the charity Missing People Martin Houghton says he’s delighted the Ben Needham case is to be given fresh momentum -  and says it’s the power of such hope which can drive people forward during their darkest moments.

By Julie Etchingham
Presenter, Tonight

Watch Kerry’s remarkable journey:  ‘Little Boy Lost –  the Search for Ben Needham’ - Thursday evening, 6 October, 7.30pm on ITV1. You can also help Kerry and all those searching for missing children by visiting www.missingpeople.org.uk/benneedham.

Around 250,000 people go missing in the UK each year. The Missing Blog aims to give a voice to all those affected by this issue.

Written by families and friends of missing people, supporters working to raise awareness of the cause, and volunteers and staff at the charity Missing People, we hope that this blog will offer a window into the issue of missing.

The charity Missing People is a lifeline when someone disappears. To find out more about Missing People and ways that you can support the charity visit www.missingpeople.org.uk.

Call or txt the charity Missing People for free on 116 000, 24/7 if you or anyone you know is affected by a disappearance.