Louise Williams won an NSPCC People Award for her incredible volunteering work with Childline Aberdeen.
Yet the modest volunteer says she didn’t think she’d “done anything out of the ordinary”.
Louise started volunteering with Childline Aberdeen in 2017, and she had a very powerful motivation.
“A family member had experienced challenges with their mental health, and we all pulled together as a supportive family,” she says, in an exclusive interview with the P&J.
“It got me thinking, what about kids who don’t have that? Who is helping those children?”
2,000 hours in 4.5 years
Inspired to turn her negative experience into a positive one, Louise contacted Childline Aberdeen. The Stonehaven grandmother started out as a counsellor but stepped up in the pandemic to also provide training and support to new volunteers.
Louise has racked up an incredible 2,000 hours with Childline – that’s the equivalent of 20 years’ volunteering since 2017.
It’s crucial work, but difficult work.
“We handle everything from calls about bullying, mental health and eating disorders through to some really difficult ones to hear, such as self-harm, suicidal thoughts – and sometimes even children in the middle of a suicide attempt,” says Louise.
However, she stresses that counsellors are really well supported by supervisors and receive 10 weeks of intensive training.
‘An elderly relative was dying, and they couldn’t see them’
During the pandemic, Childline Aberdeen started to receive more high-risk calls. Domestic violence was a particular problem, with children unable to go to school or meet friends for respite.
Yet in some ways, the more commonplace calls were the hardest to answer, says Louise.
“We had a lot of calls from kids who were missing their family, who felt like ‘What is happening?” she says. “Some children would call in because an elderly relative was dying and they couldn’t see them.
“If a child calls and says they have swallowed paracetamol, you know exactly what to do in terms of sending for help. In some ways, those calls were easier to answer.”
Louise says Childline takes a child-centred approach, so in those cases the emphasis is on helping the caller to work through their feelings.
More volunteers needed
Kerri Stewart, Volunteer Co-ordinator for Childline Aberdeen, says Louise really stepped up when the pandemic hit.
“The number of calls we received definitely increased in the pandemic,” says Kerri. “We were dealing with more high-risk calls, and more suicidal callers. There was a sense of isolation from young people, having been cut off from all their usual activities.”
Thankfully, the charity saw an upswing in volunteers, and Louise was on hand to support them.
“When this all began, Louise stepped up very much and made herself available to interview new applicants, attend volunteer information meetings and support them throughout the training,” says Kerri.
“She really gave her time to all aspects of the programme. It was a team effort, but Louise was very heavily involved.”
‘The most rewarding thing I’ve ever done’
In recognition of her efforts, Louise won a Star Performer Award at the NSPCC People Awards 2022.
“It was wonderful to see, and very well deserved,” says Kerri.
“I was blown away to get the award,” says Louise. “I didn’t think I’d done anything out of the ordinary – I just helped because I had the time – but Kerri says it was a massive help.”
Louise hopes more people will sign up to support Childline.
“It’s the most rewarding thing I have ever done,” she says. “Just for a young person to say, ‘Thank you for listening.’ You know you’ve done some good.”
Can you help?
Childline Aberdeen needs more volunteer counsellors to help the large numbers of children getting in touch. Full training is provided, and the charity asks for a commitment of four hours per week. If you think you can help, please email Kerri Stewart at email@example.com or call the Aberdeen office on 01224 973 036.