Wednesday, 28 August 2013

Missing People helped save my brother-in-law



My name is Aiga. I am a 32-year-old Latvian woman living in Riga, the capital city of Latvia. I want to tell you about how the charity Missing People, helped us through a very hard time in our lives.

A year ago, I watched a TV program about missing people. I’ll never forget the desperation in their family’s eyes, but at the same time there was hope. The hope that one day a friend, relative or partner would be found. I caught myself wondering how it would be possible to disappear without any trace, and how families cope knowing that their missing loved one might be in danger.

At that time I did not know my family would, eventually, go through it too.

It was June 18, 2013. I came home from work and saw that my husband was worried. His half-brother, Raivis, was supposed to fly back home from London where he had been staying. There had been a problem with a boarding pass and he was not allowed to board. After he had missed the flight, he tried to buy a new ticket but his credit card was swallowed as he entered the wrong PIN number. Raivis suffers from acute schizophrenia and had not taken his medication for 6 months. Through the stress of the situation he had a panic attack. He could neither to think nor to react properly. His phone ran out of battery, so he had no ticket to get home, no money and no way of contacting us.

We tried desperately to get money to him, and to arrange for someone to transport him to Latvia, but his paranoid state of mind made it difficult to communicate with him and it got to a stage where we could not reach him anymore. For almost seventeen days we didn’t know where he was or whether he was safe and sound. Seventeen days might not seem a long time, for us it felt like a year.

My sister-in-law had a friend in the UK called Steve who agreed to help us find Raivis. We also made contact with the charity Missing People, through Facebook. I messaged them and got a reply as well as words of hope and encouragement; that they were ready to help any time 24/7. I gave Missing People Steve’s details and together they ensured Raivis’ missing report was finally taken seriously. After long, sleepless few weeks, Raivis was found safe and well. He had lost weight but he was alive. Raivis is now receiving treatment and is doing well!

I thank God every day for charities like Missing People and for wonderful people like Steve, who helped reunite our family.

By Aiga Matveja,
whose brother-in-law went missing in June



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

If you want to volunteer for us, please visit www.missingpeople.org.uk/volunteers

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.