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By Amanda Peppard, Griefline Online Community Coordinator and former Volunteer Telephone Counsellor
Griefline honours our truly amazing volunteers every day of the year, for without them the organisation simply could not exist. So when National Volunteer Week comes around we enthusiastically embrace it. This year’s theme is ‘Recognise. Reconnect. Reimagine.’. Three fitting words that represent just some of the ways we enjoy a valuable and mutually beneficial relationship with our wonderful volunteer cohort.
Holding space for grief and loss
Grief and loss don’t discriminate. Every one of us will experience both – some have the resources to cope, others need a helping hand. And for over 35 years Griefline has quietly strived to meet that need in the community by providing free counselling support. In 2020 alone we received over 40,000 calls to the free Helpline. Thousands of people searching for someone to listen with understanding, without judgement, with a caring and compassionate stance. It’s what our volunteers do best – with wholehearted dedication. Last year they collectively volunteered over 19,000 hours of their time. Holding space for people who are hurting. And because grief doesn’t work to a schedule, they did their best to man the phones from 6am to midnight, every day of the week, every week of the year.
Reimagining Griefline volunteering
Being present every day of the year is no mean feat and never more challenging than in 2020 when the pandemic forced Griefline to close the doors to their telephone hub despite a 1000% increase in calls. The situation required Griefline volunteers to reimagine their role, asking them to pivot to a new remote phone system, attend professional development activities via zoom and maintain a sense of camaraderie despite an absence of togetherness. But with every challenge comes an opportunity for growth. By developing a comprehensive web-based training program, Griefline expanded their volunteer recruitment from Victoria-only to every state in Australia. The enthusiastic response from caring people across Australia was energising and heart-warming.
Recognising the value of our volunteers
Griefline is immensely grateful to all of our volunteers and recognises their generous contribution to our cause. We seek to reward them through professional development initiatives, new and emerging career pathways, and our annual awards designed to shine a spotlight on those who have gone above and beyond. True to Griefline’s character, the awards ceremony is meaningful and heartfelt, yet takes place with little fanfare. Recipients are not publicised outside of the organisation thus protecting the anonymity of the care-givers and help-seekers.
Reconnecting our volunteers with our history and values
The Catherine Cini Award is the organisation’s most prestigious award. Named after Griefline’s CEO from 2009 to 2019, Cini was widely recognised for her service and support to the community and was instrumental in transforming Griefline from a palliative care support service to an independent not for profit, offering telephone counselling and support across Victoria and Australia. In 2020 the Griefline Catherine Cini Award was presented to a volunteer who has consistently demonstrated all three Griefline values – courage, connection and compassion. Her commitment, passion and perseverance were instrumental in making a significant and lasting impact to our highly-valued Policeline program, across operations, volunteers and clients.
This National Volunteer Week we thank our Griefline volunteers for connecting with thousands of Australians in need and for their enduring courage and tireless compassion. Never before have the words RECOGNISE. RECONNECT. REIMAGINE. been more fitting.
To learn more about becoming a Griefline volunteer take a look at the Volunteer Opportunities available on our website https://griefline.org.au/support-our-vision/volunteers/
For more information please contact Griefline Chief Marketing Officer, Louisa Smith [email protected]