Helpline Awards – Volunteer of the Year 2018

Annika Howard
Father and daughter walking in low autumn sun

The Helpline Volunteer of the Year recognises the contribution of full-time or part-time helpline volunteers who have shown a real commitment and gone above and beyond the volunteer role. This year, Pauline Green, a helpline volunteer for Families Need Fathers won the award and talks to us about volunteering.

A history of volunteering

My first experience of volunteering was with the Samaritans in Bath between 1981 and 1987. The phone lines were usually very busy, and I found being a Samaritan really rewarding if at times upsetting. The night shifts were particularly exhausting, with callers and visitors into the early hours.

Some of the calls and visits were quite distressing, but I knew they needed help and had no one else to talk to. Between 1990 and 1995 I volunteered at Citizens Advice Bureau in Chippenham; this was another hands-on role, providing advice on issues such as debt, housing, and child maintenance.

After we retired to the Isle of Wight in 2008 I decided that I once again wanted to do some voluntary work. Unfortunately, the options in the local village were very limited. I knew that charity shops wouldn’t really be enough for me and I wanted something which would make the most of my previous experience.

Motivation to volunteer

Around the time we moved to the Isle of Wight a member of my family, was part way through a divorce and had recently moved back to the UK from abroad, where her daughter’s father lived. My relative told me all about the father’s rights and even though it was causing her some upset, I admired the determination of the father who was doing everything he could to see his daughter. Online, I came across the charity Families Need Fathers and saw they were looking for home-based telephone support volunteers.

Volunteering on the helpline

Before I could start volunteering on the helpline, logging into our phone bank message system to return calls, I completed a Families Need Fathers training course. It’s been fascinating to see the wide range of callers who need help, not just fathers, but sometimes their new partners and grandparents too; and the immensely varied, heart-breaking, sometimes even bizarre situations that fathers find themselves in.

Calls can sometimes have surprising outcomes. One particular caller donated over £2,000 to the organisation after I had spoken to him as he felt so impassioned about the service we provide.

Remote volunteering

Working from home, while lacking the face to face human interaction and the social side has nonetheless proved ideal for my circumstances. The team at Families Need Fathers regularly keep in touch with one another and have occasional social activities in London as well as our Annual General Meeting, so I feel really connected to the organisation as a whole.

I feel pleased and honoured to be receiving this award on behalf of Families need Fathers.

Families Need Fathers is the leading UK charity supporting dads, mums and grandparents to have personal contact and meaningful relationships with their children following parental separation.

You can find out more about Families Need Fathers and the help and support they can provide on their website www.fnf.org.uk

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