THERE are days when most parents wish their child would just be quiet, but Val Beegan from Corbally has been listening to children consistently for 24 years and, as far as she’s concerned, the more they talk the better.
Val has been a volunteer with Childline, the ISPPC’s listening service, for almost a quarter of a century and she says “it never gets boring. I still regularly hear things I never heard before.”
Val told the Limerick Post that she has “always loved being with children. My mother used to mind kids and I run a small childminding service now.”
She got involved with the service after seeing an advertisement for volunteers in the Limerick Post.
“The training was intense but it was really good,” she says.
She gets calls about everything from pocket money to podcasts.
“Sometimes I even get parents ringing asking if I’ll talk to their child.”
The internet and access to technology has changed the way children communicate since Val started with Childline.
“Children used to call in the middle of the night, but they have far greater access to their own phones now and they are using the online chat and text facilities a lot more.
“They are also more confident in talking about their mental health issues and their feelings. But it makes you wonder, when you see a child out on the street, what goes on behind closed doors in that child’s family? Some of it can be absolutely shocking.”
When a child rings with that most serious of issues – abuse – Val says she will “talk to them and get them help from the emergency services if the case is urgent, or if they are not ready for that, see if they can talk to someone else that they trust.
“Sometimes, children need to talk to us first and after doing that a few times, they have the confidence to give their personal details and be referred on.”
Val finds great passion and fulfilment in her work on the phones, saying, “I love talking to children. You’re always learning from them.”
Catriona Mullahey is a supervisor in the Limerick Childline service. Speaking to the Limerick Post about her experience on the phone lines, she said: “Children don’t just ring about trauma – they can ring just to talk about something, or because they did well in school and they want to talk about that”.
The serious issues raised by children on the lines, both Childline volunteers agree, include family and friend relationships, body image, social media, and online bullying.
“You don’t have to have some big degree or qualification. You just have to be interested in talking to children and be able to listen to them.”
Childline are currently recruiting volunteers for their services in Limerick, Dublin, Drogheda, Cork, Galway, and Mayo. Full training is provided, starting remotely in September.
For more information, see ispcc.ie/volunteer-childline or email [email protected]