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Regional pioneers celebrated in National Volunteer Week

26 May 2022

As part of National Volunteer Week, Lifeline WA is celebrating the progress of its pilot project to train volunteers in regional WA as telephone crisis supporters.

The ‘Volunteer at Home’ project uses remote technology to put regional volunteers through the same rigorous training and supervision as volunteers in the Lifeline WA Perth hub until they are ready to answer calls from their own home.

Launched in August 2021, 35 students across three cohorts have participated in the pilot and several volunteers are close to becoming fully accredited Lifeline WA crisis supporters.

Students completed 10 training sessions and five telephone shifts under the guidance of a mentor before beginning the process to transition to answering calls from home.

Among them is Mandurah resident Anne, who volunteered to give back to Lifeline WA for the support it provided her late son.

Anne’s son would often call Lifeline for support to deal with the psychotic symptoms brought on by the seizures that eventually claimed his life.

“Lifeline was really good at just giving him a sense of wellbeing that allowed him to keep focus and stay steady throughout the day,” Anne said.

Anne said the Volunteer at Home program had made a significant impact on her life and was grateful for the support she received from the Lifeline WA trainers.

“It’s been a been a really steep learning curve, but one that has really allowed me to grow as a person,” she said.

“The whole structure and framework are just amazing.”

Now answering calls from her home, Anne said she appreciated being able to be there for people in crisis.

“It's really just a sense of purpose and privilege that you've been allowed to enter into people's lives at their most vulnerable and you've been able to support them in at a very critical time and give them a sense of hope,” she said.

The Volunteer at Home pilot is being assessed by Edith Cowan University, which has been monitoring students throughout and is due to finish in June 2022.

ECU will then compile the data and publish the findings of the study to help inform the next phase of the program.

Lifeline WA CEO Lorna MacGregor said volunteers were the lifeblood of the organisation.

“The Volunteer at Home program has enabled us to extend our volunteer base beyond the Perth metropolitan region for the first time,” she said.

“All of our volunteers are special, but this National Volunteer Week Lifeline WA wants to particularly thank our South West volunteers for supporting the launch of a new program.”

Ms MacGregor also thanked Lotterywest for providing the necessary funding to run the Volunteer at Home pilot study.