ISPCC Childline volunteer Dee Higgins is dedicated to making sure children always have a safe space they can turn to, where they will be listened to and believed.
Never has this service been more important than over the past year – with issues including abuse, domestic violence and mental health difficulties being experienced more intensely during the pandemic.
The Castlebar woman has given up an evening every week for over five years to help Childline listen to children. She also regularly helps to raise funds for the service and even overcame her nerves to take on a skydive challenge.
Dee said: “I’ve always enjoyed listening to children, so I was keen to volunteer with Childline. When my own children were getting a little older, I decided to go for it – and I haven’t looked back since.
“I never expected to get so much back from volunteering in my own life. I have learned so many new skills and made friends from all walks of life. We are all united with a common purpose: to make sure every child has somewhere they can turn.
“While children who contact Childline talk about lots of different things, the first lockdown period after schools closed last March will always stick in my mind.
“There was a greater sense of urgency about those calling the service. They may have been at home 24 hours a day with an abuser and not had the safe refuge of school, or other supports.
“Parents and carers appeared to be drinking more at home and rows and arguments were spilling over and impacting children. We noticed an increase in those reaching out online at this time – they may not have felt comfortable calling and having their conversation overheard.
“Whatever way a child engages with Childline, it is hugely important for them to know they can reach out and they will be heard and believed.
“It is a very brave thing for a child to take the first step of contacting the service. We are conscious that they might be talking about something for the very first time. It is a privilege to be there for them, to support and empower them.
“It is important that Childline is always here for children, but of course it is the public who make this possible. I’ve enjoyed getting involved in the fundraising side of things over the last few years and have had some great fun.
“We’ve done car washes, quizzes, Christmas wrapping and then we raised €10,000 for the service a couple of years ago through our sky dive in Kilkenny. That was a day I’ll never forget!
“A walking challenge on St. Patrick’s Day is the next challenge we’ll face as a group. Whatever happens, we’re determined to help make sure no child has to face their challenges alone in this exceptional year.”
The Childline service is made possible with thanks to the dedication of volunteers across Ireland like Dee. To help support the service, see ISPCC.ie.
Any child or young person can reach Childline at any time by chatting online at Childline.ie or calling 1800 66 66 66.