Twenty seven years ago I read about the National Runaway Switchboard in a DePaulia article and decided to volunteer. They run a crisis intervention hot-line (1-800 RUNAWAY) for teens and pre-teens who are at risk for running way or committing suicide.
After an intensive training process I got on the phones to talk with callers and help them come to terms with their situations and find options for changing their lives. I spoke with adolescents from across the country and from every walk of life. Eventually, I got into the training process and helped dozens of other volunteers get their voice and ears.
It was emotionally challenging and stimulating at the same time. I gained a better insight into my own life and learned how to help others do the same. Strong coping skills were essential and decompressing was vital. I almost trademarked the phrase “shot & a beer”, and my gallows humor was widely appreciated by the staff and volunteers. It was one of the more difficult volunteer engagements I have every had.
When I decided to embark on this year’s journey of volunteerism, I knew I had to go back to the NRS and so this past spring I made contact with the current Volunteer Coordinator, Michelle Vos. When I visited their offices it was like I never left. With the exception of the modernized PC system versus the huge computer print out directories it was all very familiar.
To help them out I took many of my old training materials and let Michelle copy whatever she found useful. This week I visited some Chicago Public Libraries and left behind brochures, posters, business cards, DVDs, and other promotional materials for teenagers.
I am also recording a video for It Get’s Better that promotes the NRS as an option to find support, but that’s another story. 🙂
If you think you have what it takes to listen and talk WITH at risk teenagers please give them a call and find out how you can get on the line. You can see more about them at this video on YoutuBe, A Listening Ear.
This is twenty-seven, and now only 23 to go!