South Wales teenager going the extra mile to answer NSPCC Cymru’s appeal for more Childline volunteers
Here at the Child of Wales Awards, we are constantly amazed at the wonderful spirit of compassion and selflessness that so many young people from across the country show towards others.
It’s particularly great to hear the story of one teenager from South Wales who is determined to help one of our sponsored charities – NSPCC Cymru – by becoming a volunteer counsellor for Childline when she turns 16, and is on a fundraising mission to cover the cost of her own volunteer training.
Liz Brennan, 15, has set herself a challenge to run, walk and cycle 870 miles – the length of the Wales coast path – to raise £1,600, which is enough to fund the training of a Childline counsellor.
“Lockdown has been a strange one,” says Liz. “For me personally school work has been overwhelming and the uncertainty surrounding GCSE results this summer has been very stressful.
“My family have been really supportive and we have spent lots of time together at home and we started to go walking and cycling, which made those stressful moments less of a nightmare.
“It’s made me realise that this isn’t the case for many children and young people, which is why I want to support the work of the NSPCC so they can still be there for children.
“I know that the charity needs more volunteers to be able to do that, which is why I have set myself the fundraising challenge, and why I am determined to become a Childline counsellor next year so that I can be there to help others.”
Liz’s plans to apply to be a Childline counsellor were cemented having seen the NSPCC’s recent appeal for Childline volunteers in North Wales, which it made after active volunteer numbers fell significantly because many existing counsellors had to shield during the COVID-19 crisis.
Starting her challenge on Tuesday 1 September, Liz hopes to complete the distance in four
months, managing her runs, walks, and bike rides around her GCSE school work as she returns to the classroom for the start of the new academic year.
Liz from Nantgarw has already been out on some training sessions having swapped her pre-lockdown fitness classes at the gym for cycling.
She says: “To complete the challenge by Christmas I’ll have to average around eight miles every single day over four months. It’s quite a lot as I’ll be having to put the miles in before or after school.
“I saw Rhys Jenkins break the world record for covering the same distance and whilst I’m not going to be doing it that fast, I’m up for giving the distance a go and he has given me some inspiration to do that.”
Liz who attends Bishop of Llandaff School has volunteered with the charity’s fundraising team since the age of eight, supporting coffee mornings, carol concerts, bucket collections, and more recently the 2.6 Challenge.
The charity relies on public donations for 90% of its income, which is why fundraising is so important. It costs the charity £1,600 to train a volunteer counsellor for Childline and £4 to answer a child’s call to Childline.
Two of the NSPCC’s twelve Childline bases across the UK are located in Wales, in Prestatyn and Cardiff, providing support to worried children and young people. Childline counsellors are ready to listen to those who contact the service, giving them a safe space to talk about anything that is happening to them or causing them to worry.
Liz added: “Speaking to my friends, lockdown has been different for all of us and we look at the same situation differently – some of us have struggled and others have enjoyed being at home.
“I want to help make sure that Childline can answer every contact it has from a child or young person because I know that home isn’t a safe space for everyone.”
Debs Davis, Childline Service Manager for Wales, says: “We hear from children and young people every day who need someone to listen to them without judgment.
“It can be about anything, from mental-health and family and relationship concerns, to bullying, abuse, or suicidal thoughts and feelings.
“We are all heartened by the challenge Liz has set herself, raising funds that will help us be there for children and young people.
“It’s wonderful that she is so keen to become a volunteer with Childline because without people volunteering their time to support our charity, and without public donations, we simply couldn’t do what we do.”
The charity is appealing for English and Welsh speaking volunteers at its base in Prestatyn. Successful applicants are asked to give a minimum 4.25 hours per week as a counsellor, and receive a comprehensive training package.
More information is available on the charity’s website. Anyone interested in finding out more about what the role entails and how to apply can contact the staff team on 01745 772 101 or via email@example.com. To follow Liz’s progress with her challenge or to make a donation visit her JustGiving page.
Anyone with any concerns about the welfare of a child can call the NSPCC Helpline on 0808 800 5000 or visit nspcc.org.uk for advice. Children can contact Childline on 0800 1111 between 9am or midnight or visit childline.org.uk for free 365 days a year.
One of our charities, NSPCC Cymru, is making an urgent appeal for Childline volunteers after active volunteer numbers fell dramatically during the COVID-19 crisis.
Its Childline bases in Cardiff and Prestatyn are among 12 UK-wide that are continuing to provide support to children and young people when they need it most. The service has been inundated with contacts from children and young people, with many worried about what Coronavirus means for them.
Volunteer Emma Brookes, 38, has been carrying out additional shifts during lockdown to help bridge the shortfall in volunteers.
“Many of our volunteers have been shielding and, understandably, are unable to come into our Childline bases,” she says.
“Volunteering has changed slightly during lockdown – the contacts from young people have had a lot more to do with COVID19 and mental health concerns.
“Young people are struggling with the lack of face-to-face support and being stuck in the house.”
Children and young people can contact the charity’s counselling service 365 days a year, where specially trained counsellors volunteer their time to listen to their concerns and support them with their worries. Mental health, abuse, family and relationship problems, and bullying are all common concerns, but the reality is when a contact comes in counsellors are ready to talk to a young person about anything.
Mother-of-four, Emma, started volunteering for Childline in April 2019 after a friend recommended she sign up, and she hasn’t looked back.
“My ultimate goal is to work with children and families in some capacity and so I thought listening and supporting young people was a good place to start, but mainly I wanted to be able to offer young people going through a difficult time a space to be heard.
“My first shift, I was so nervous I can’t even put it into words. I was so worried I was going to say the wrong thing which could have a detrimental impact on the young people I spoke with. But at the end of the shift, I just felt fantastic and there is so much support from the supervisors that you never feel alone.”
Emma is from Holywell and mainly volunteers her time on a Saturday evening from Childline’s Prestatyn base where she supports young people around a whole host of issues, including self-harm, and suicidal thoughts and feelings.
“I think demand is high during these hours because most services are unfortunately Monday- Friday 9-5 leaving many young people with no professional help over the weekend,” says Emma.
“They have no school, no access to other services they are using and that can be when young people feel at their most vulnerable.”
Emma juggles volunteering shifts for Childline around her home life, university studies and two other volunteering roles.
She says: “Being a Childline volunteer brings me a sense of purpose – 95% of the time I leave the shift feeling like a child or young person has been listened to and maybe even just for that one evening feels that things might just be okay.
“Some calls mean that for one young person, I might have helped keep them alive for long enough for them to get support and professional help.”
Emma’s advice to anyone interested in finding out more about volunteering as Childline counsellor?
“If I could say anything, I’d just say do it – if that drive is there to help children and young people, go for it.
“Young people need somewhere to feel safe heard and supported. One shift a week could be enough to help a young person and you could be the one person who has believed them, which is massive. There aren’t enough of us, so please come and help us to make a difference.”
Children and young people can speak with a Childline counsellor online or on the phone between 9am and midnight.
Childline Services Manager, Debs Davis says: “Childline gives children and young people a safe space to talk about anything that is happening to them or causing them to worry and that is so important – in fact it can be life-changing.
“We’re desperately in need of more English and Welsh speaking volunteers at our Childline base in Prestatyn so that we can continue to still be here or children and young people when they need us most.”
Successful applicants are asked to give a minimum 4.25 hours per week as a counsellor, and receive a comprehensive training package.
More information is available on the charity’s website. Anyone interested in finding out more about what the role entails and how to apply can contact Volunteer Co-ordinator Sally King-Sheard on 01745 772101 or via Sally.King-Sheard@NSPCC.org.uk
Anyone with any concerns about the welfare of a child can call the NSPCC Helpline on 0808 800 5000 or visit nspcc.org.uk for advice. Children can contact Childline on 0800 1111 or visit childline.org.uk for free 365 days a year.
By Blanche Sainsbury, founder, Child of Wales
We would, once again, like to thank all of our sponsors, supporters and stakeholders for their continued support during these unprecedented times. It means a lot to us, the charities we are supporting and the children and young people whose lives we will celebrate. It gives us all hope and something to look forward to in the midst of uncertainty. But in the context of the pandemic and limitations on social gatherings, we have had to map the best way forward for the Child of Wales Awards.
As such, we have some important announcements to make. We have made these in the context of government guidelines and scientific advice and in the best interests of everyone involved in Child of Wales. But we are also still determined to create some magic and offer joy and happiness to individuals – the purpose of Child of Wales.
We have rescheduled the main Child of Wales Awards for Friday April 9, 2021. We promise the long wait will be worth it – the evening will be amazing. More detail on why we have done this is below.
In addition to this, because we did not want to keep our amazing young people waiting that long before their achievements could be recognised, we also have a special surprise in store.
We will be contacting all our young award winners over the next few months to tell them they have won and give them some very special surprises. We plan to then release a video of celebration, comprising their stories, on the date of the rescheduled awards on October 30. Again, more detail is below.
Finally, we are acutely aware of the challenges many charities have faced as a result of lockdown and restrictions on society. The delay of our event has limited our ability to fundraise but in light of the funding challenges many charities are facing, we will be presenting our charities with £5,000 each immediately. We hope this will help them through these difficult times. We again thank our sponsors for their continued support, which has made this possible.
Child of Wales Awards
Even though we accept it may be possible to run a large event in the autumn, there remains much uncertainty in the UK around COVID-19 infection rates and the government’s response. A so-called second wave remains a possibility as does localised lockdowns if infection rates soar in certain geographical areas.
We also must consider the vulnerability of some of our award winners, many of which are in a high-risk category and have been self-isolating or shielding for many months now. Given the size of the awards may reach some 750, the feasibility of our event as planned in just over three months’ time is clearly in doubt.
The coronavirus prevented us holding our inaugural event, to the great disappointment of everyone involved. But 2021 is a new year and we are sure it will be a better year. We promised our young award winners a night in the spotlight and we plan to deliver exactly that.
Therefore, on April 9, 2021, we will finally meet at the Celtic Manor, as intended, to finally deliver what we started and what so many people have worked so hard to make a very special event. The only difference is that we will be adding a few new awards, details of which will be revealed in October.
These new awards are designed to celebrate the bravery and community spirit of Wales’ young people during the pandemic and through lockdown. During the Coronavirus pandemic, though we were not seeking new nominations, we have been contacted by many individuals getting in touch and asking us to recognise the bravery and hard work of many young people in Wales who have gone the extra mile for their friends, relatives and their local community. We will formalise this sentiment into some new awards and seek new entries.
Our virtual celebration
The whole world has been forced to embrace an alternative, online, existence during lockdown and technology has come on leaps and bounds as a result. Many other awards ceremonies, from graduations to business awards, are now being delivered in a virtual format. We plan to also celebrate the achievements of our winners in this way.
This means that the stories of our inspirational young people, with the support of sponsors and other stakeholders, will be used to help us pull together a video celebrating Child of Wales, which we will release on October 30.
We are very excited by this prospect, which will allow us to celebrate the achievements and lives of young people in Wales – and bring our stakeholders together – but in a virtual, and thus safe, environment.
We remain excited and positive about the future plans for the Child of Wales Awards. We receive a huge amount of goodwill from our stakeholders and the wider community on a regular basis. We are grateful for that and plan to repay it in spades through our two planned events as well as our continued publicity campaign and the continued growth of our platforms on social media.
Thank you for your continued support – and patience.
Blanche Sainsbury, founder, Child of Wales