Childline founder Dame Esther Rantzen visited the helpline’s base in Aberdeen yesterday to say a special thank you to the charity’s oldest volunteer and to urge more people to help.
Norman Hutchison was a sprightly 85-years-old as he signed up to volunteer 15 years ago – when the Aberdeen base was newly formed.
Now aged 100, he still comes along to lend a hand with the administration.
Mr Hutchison said his time has been “worthwhile” and added: “Some of the things happening to children are shocking. That’s why it’s so important that Childline is there.
“The service is always in need of helpers. It would be good if more men volunteered.”
Formed in 1986, Childline was the brain child of Dame Esther and came about following a Child Watch segment which was commissioned for her popular prime-time That’s Life programme.
A 48-hour helpline was set-up immediately after the programme aired and Dame Esther recalls the phones being “jammed” with calls.
She said: “Because we had items on like the dog who said ‘sausages’, lots of children watched That’s Life.
“We received hundreds of calls – mainly talking about sexual abuse.
“The social workers who were running the lines for the BBC said that for these kids, talking to someone else who told them it wasn’t their fault and telling them that things could change; well it empowered these kids and gave them hope.
“The lines closed after 48 hours, but it made me think ‘suppose we had been able to keep that helpline open’ – how many more hundreds of children would have used it?
“So Childline was created and since then we have helped 4.5 million children and we are counselling 300,000 every year.”
The charity has 150 volunteers working from the Aberdeen base, but Dame Esther said: “We need more.
“At the moment we are reaching three out of four children who need us. We want to be able to help that fourth child.
“For anyone considering volunteering, don’t worry about having no previous experience because we will train you.
“Don’t worry about your age. Norman started when he was 85.
“These children may be in pain but the fact is you are changing their lives. The volunteers tell me that it is the best time of their week and that is so rewarding.
“So many young people have mental health issues, such as depression and anxiety.
“Without Childline they would have nowhere else to turn to and would suffer in silence.”
Aberdeen is one of 11 bases throughout the UK for the charity.
For more information on volunteering, call Childline on 0800 1111.