Paris and Sarah
‘I am so grateful to The Listening Place. It saved my life.’ – JT, a Visitor
‘Most of our Visitors don’t want to die, but they do want their pain to be over. We provide a warm, safe place where they can talk without being judged or advised; it’s such a privilege to be with them.’ Paris Forrester-Straker is eloquently describing her voluntary role at The Listening Place, a remarkable charity that offers face-to-face listening support (by appointment only) for people with suicidal feelings.
‘Having opened our West London site in April (9am-9pm seven days a week), we are now recruiting local volunteers like Paris,’ explains Sarah Anderson, founder of The Listening Place. ‘We urgently need Listening Volunteers, who sit with our Visitors, and Helping Volunteers, who meet and greet, make drinks and help with admin.
‘We are an eclectic bunch, ranging from 18 to 86 years old, and we don’t look for any specific background or qualifications. What’s most important is that our volunteers are compassionate, empathetic and resilient. We encourage anyone who is interested to apply online, come to one of our information meetings and then, if they want to pursue an application, we’ll invite them to an interview.’
The charity’s training programme for Listening Volunteers is focused on active listening – not counselling or therapy – and role-playing exercises. Successful candidates are required to commit for a minimum of a year, during which they work a fortnightly four-hour shift with three Visitor appointments.
‘The training was exciting,’ recalls Paris. ‘It is emotional and tough, but I learned so much and felt so energised. Of course, the first shift is nerve-wracking, but there’s always an experienced Supervising Volunteer on site and you build close, mutually supportive relationships with your peers.’
‘Becoming a Listening Volunteer isn’t for everyone,’ adds Sarah. ‘But it’s so rewarding to be with and help a Visitor who, when they came, didn’t feel that life was worth living.’ (The next information meetings are on 14 and 28 October 18.30-20.00).
The Listening Place
Unit 1, Cambridge Court
210 Shepherds Bush Road, W6 7NJ
020 3657 0895