Today, we want to shine a spotlight on our amazing volunteer Lily for all the incredible support she provides via our Online Chat. In 2021-22 alone, 991 people accessed our Online Chat for support. Thanks to Lily, we were there to provide the help they needed 7 days a week.
We asked Lily a few questions to learn more about her experience volunteering on our Online Chat…
As an Online Chat Volunteer, I am responsible for having 1:1 chats over an online chat function with individuals who reach out for support. Many chatters are individuals who are missing themselves, thinking of going missing, or are family/friends of individuals who are missing. Other chatters are reaching out for support if they are experiencing mental health difficulties, financial or housing difficulties, or issues within their relationships. My role is to provide emotional support using an empathetic approach to the individual in need as well as offering support and advice to address their specific needs. For example, by signposting them to other organisations that may be equipped to also support them.
I applied to volunteer for Missing People as I have a personal interest in the reasons behind people going missing – reading lots of articles and watching lots of documentaries on this topic! I had heard of Missing People and the great work that they do and wanted to get involved. As such, combined with my job in mental health within the NHS, I believed that I had some relevant skills I could utilise to support individuals with mental health difficulties and wanted to help the charitable sector at supporting those in need.
The training for the role was extremely thorough, collaborative and engaging. Online chatters received 4 x 3 hour evening training sessions, facilitated by supervisors, where we learnt about the charity itself, reasons why people go missing and safeguarding and important legislation. However, most importantly we developed skills to effectively support individuals who engage with the service. It was a great opportunity to meet fellow colleagues and led me to feel equipped for the role.
Typically, I log online for my 3 hour shift either in the afternoon or the evening. I am warmly welcomed by the supervisor on duty who gives a handover of anything I should know about ahead of my shift. During my shift I welcome chatters who come online and try to support them with their needs, signposting to relevant organisations that may help them, too. Afterward, I have the opportunity to debrief with the supervisor before the shift ends.
What I enjoy most is that no volunteering shift is the same! The conversation topics had with each chatter are diverse and everchanging, which keeps the role interesting! On a personal level, knowing that I have been able to support someone who is in need to the best of my ability enables me to feel that I have done something meaningful at the end of each shift.
As the topics of conversation are sometimes emotionally difficult, it is essential to look after yourself in this role. I ensure that I reach out to my supervisor and colleagues to seek support if I am unsure of something or just want a chat! It is also useful to have a debrief with the supervisor at the end of each shift. Especially if chats have been emotionally challenging. Oh, and having a packet of chocolate biscuits next to me each shift is also essential!
My volunteer role has provided me with a deeper understanding of the scope of difficulties that individuals are facing in these hard economic and social times, and the breadth of support that Missing People has to offer. I believed that my active listening skills have improved and my ability to empathise with people virtually is something I am proud of. Hopefully, my job in mental health has facilitated me with some skills to be a beneficial Online Chat volunteer, and that my volunteering has also improved skills in my employed work.
I would definitely recommend volunteering for Missing People to anyone who is thinking about it. The organisation has an open and honest culture. The staff and supervisors are also always welcoming, kind and there if you need their expertise or advice. The support and experience you receive is amazing, as is working with the chatters that you genuinely help. I thoroughly enjoy my volunteering work with Missing People and I am sure that you would too!
Inspired by Lily and want to learn more about our volunteering opportunities? Click the link below.I want to learn more