Thursday, 8 August 2013

The 'fuzzy' feeling

When I first signed up to start my training as a helpline volunteer I agreed to commit to work on the helpline for at least a year. Now this year is almost up, it got me thinking about why I’m keen to continue volunteering for this charity as long as I can.  

I am now a fully trained Helpline and Search Support Volunteer. And while I feel ready, able and supported working on the helpline, I feel that I have even more to learn now than I thought I did at the very beginning.The training and support I’ve received and continue to receive from the charity’s staff has been fantastic. The training was at times time-consuming and even gruelling, but was also enjoyable and without overstatement, life-changing. 

I’ve learnt lots of skills and tips which are not just useful to working on the helpline but are valuable life skills. Dealing with people who are angry, scared or upset is something we all have to deal with at times – not just if we volunteer on a helpline. The training also showed me the huge value to really listening, and not just waiting for your turn to speak, and the importance of asking the right questions -even if they’re difficult questions to ask.

It isn’t a cliché to say that I learn something new on almost every shift I work. From finding out about the logistical difficulties faced by family members looking for a missing person abroad, to being introduced to a charity that can help homeless people find a safe place to spend the night.
There is so much to learn about the countless issues related to missing:  from mental health and sexual exploitation, through to bullying, debt and domestic abuse. I can’t help but think that even in 10 lifetimes there would still be scope to find out more about why and how people go missing.

When it comes to practical advice, it’s vital that staff and volunteers have the most up to date and accurate information. For this to happen, staff and volunteers need to continue to learn, adapt and improve. Happily this is truly integral to the Missing People charity.

Since I’ve started there has been an array of talks and different training sessions made available for staff and volunteers – often attended by very senior and experienced staff members. It’s refreshing to volunteer at a charity where everyone seems keen to learn.

But while learning about these issues is undoubtedly fascinating, the biggest incentive for me to carry on volunteering is perhaps the hardest to put into words. 

When I first started my training I thought the emphasis of the charity’s work was to help find people. About people being ‘missing’ and ‘being found’.

The reality is that with the issue of missing there often aren’t absolutes. We may never find out what happened to someone who has gone missing and, even when someone is found, we may never find out exactly how or why.

One of the most important things I’ve learnt is that there aren’t always answers or comforting words of wisdom. But the work of the charity is to be there anyway. About being a metaphorical hand for people to hold when things are tough.  

The biggest incentive to continue volunteering is the 'fuzzy' feeling after you’ve taken a call. A feeling made up of sympathy, sadness and a sprinkling of contentment, when you know that just being there has made someone’s day a little bit better.

By Erica 
Missing People Helpline Volunteer

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Someone is reported missing every 90 seconds in the UK. 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.

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