“This is the Crisis Hotline. How can I help you?” I almost hung up when I heard those words on the other end of the phone. I was angry, frightened, and lost.
“I tried to kill myself, but it isn’t working.” I waited for a response.
“OK, let me get a counselor to help you.”
I didn’t think anyone could help, but I didn’t know what else to do. A woman talked to me that night for a very long time. I don’t remember everything she said, but I will never forget her compassion and caring that night. She listened-really listened-without judgement or condemnation. She saved my life that night.
Several years later, I made a decision to volunteer with crisis hotline in the town where I lived. The 35+ hours of training consisted of learning active listening skills, crisis intervention skills, and more. I was excited about answering calls and helping someone just as I had been helped. Little did I know that one call on that line would change my life.
I was in an abusive marriage. I knew I needed to leave, but I kept making excuses for staying. One afternoon I answered a call from a women, who was hiding in a closet while we talked. I stayed on the phone with her as I heard her husband banging on the door and screaming at her. We were able to send help to her and get her out. I don’t know what happened with her after that day, but as I talked with her I realized it could easily have been me on the other end of the call. It was time for a change.
Within a couple of months, I left my marriage and moved back home to South Carolina for a new start. A couple of years later, I saw an ad for a position as the Volunteer Coordinator for our local Hotline. I was ecstatic when I was offered the job. I have been blessed to part of the 2-1-1 Hotline here in Charleston, SC ever since.
The staff and volunteers are an amazing group of people. We have volunteers from every walk of life and every age range. We have college students majoring in psychology or social work. We have senior citizens who are retired and love talking with callers. We have people from varied philosophical ideas, from every political affiliation, from all faith and religious backgrounds, and more. The common thread is a desire to help others.
People often ask what is required to be a 2-1-1 Hotline volunteer. Here is what it takes:
- Respect of others and non-judgmental attitude
- Empathy or understanding
- Level head and ability to stay calm in a crisis
- Dependability and honesty
Our training program covers general counseling skills, crisis intervention and issue education to prepare you for the wide variety of calls you may take. We ask for a commitment of4 four-hour shifts a month, with flexible scheduling 24 hours a day, for 9 months following the completion of training.
My friend and coworker, Sonia wrote a blog post about her experience with 2-1-1 Hotline as well. You can read it here. Sonia is the phone room manager and would love to talk to you about volunteering. Our next training starts in June.
Call or e-mail today to set up an interview!! firstname.lastname@example.org or 843-566-7186