South West pioneers celebrated in National Volunteer Week

25 May 2022

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

The ‘Volunteer at Home’ project uses remote technology to put volunteers in regional WA 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 South West 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 the volunteers is South West mother-of-three Kristy, who put her hand up for the program in part to provide an example to her children. 

“I’ve always volunteered in the community in some capacity, and I wanted to give my kids that sense that when you’ve got more than what you need, you should give back,” Kristy said.

“Even though the Volunteer at Home program isn’t directly in my local community, it’s still nice to feel that I’m giving something back and supporting others.”

A few months into answering calls, Kristy said she treasured the times she could tell she reached someone.

“When you’re on a call, and you just say the right thing at the right time and you sense this shift, in that silence someone’s had this ‘aha’ moment, and then you can hear that hope that wasn’t really there before,” Kristy 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.