Advertisement

‘I like feeling at the end of the day that I’ve helped someone’: Switchboard volunteers share their experiences at LGBT+ helpline

Switchboard volunteers Jenny, David, and Xan
Switchboard volunteers Jenny, David, and Xan (Image: Switchboard)

On 4 March 1974, the Switchboard LGBT+ Helpline took its first calls from members of the LGBTQ+ community. More than four million people are estimated to have been helped by thousands of volunteers over countless hours in the years since.

Switchboard has been there every step of the way. From the Aids crisis and the stigma of the 1980s to the celebrations of equal marriage, Switchboard has held hands, comforted souls, and offered non-judgmental advice to its users.

On Tuesday 4 March 2024, the organisation turned 50 years old. To celebrate this milestone birthday, the organisation held a celebratory event at the BT Tower in London inviting volunteers past and present to take stock, mark their part in the organisation’s history and look ahead to the future.

Attitude spoke to several volunteers throughout the night about their experiences manning the phone lines.

“You know a call has really worked when you’ve helped someone summarise everything and put it in a way so that they can make a decision” – David

Rodrigo, Volunteer (he/him)

I joined in 2018 after I moved to London from Brazil and I wanted to give back to the community. I felt like I had something to give since my background is in psychology so I really wanted to give that, and I knew I had so much to learn as well. It’s been a great privilege to be a part of Switchboard and the organisation’s history. I feel so much pride. It feels like I’m on the right track personally, making a mark in the world in the right way, and contributing to something bigger than myself.

David, Volunteer (he/they)

I started volunteering in 2008 and it’s been amazing. The calls are always new. You never know what you’re going to get. The people I meet through the volunteer network are always great as well. I’m just a small part of Switchboard and its history. It’s the volunteers who make it, and there’s been thousands over the years. We all do the same thing, we answer calls, Instant Messages, and help people. That’s all we do. You know a call has really worked when you’ve helped someone summarise everything and put it in a way so that they can make a decision and they’ve gone away knowing what they’re going to do. That’s the most rewarding thing and you get that most shifts.

“It’s such an honour to be part of those moments and to know that someone is really taking the first steps into living more fully as who they are and who they want to be” – Xan

Xan, Volunteer and co-chair of Switchboard’s Board of Trustees (she/they)

I got involved with Switchboard because I wanted to be part of the LGBTQ+ community in London. I had two friends take their own lives, and it was really important to me to be part of a service that was there for people when they really needed someone to listen. There are thousands of volunteers that have contributed an unimaginable number of hours to this service. It’s such a beautiful community, humble, celebratory place.

I really hope that it inspires everyone who reaches out to us to believe that that exists for them in the world because it does. We’re living proof of that. It’s always very impactful when you speak to someone who has never told anyone before something about their gender or sexuality. They’ve never spoken it aloud, and it’s such an honour to be part of those moments and to know that someone is really taking the first steps into living more fully as who they are and who they want to be.

Jenny, Volunteer (she/her)

I joined in 2007 to help out the LGBT community and also, to meet like-minded people. Our volunteers come from all walks of life and all backgrounds and it’s been great seeing the charity evolve. It’s been amazing to learn about the history and be involved with the gay community. Even though we’re London based we work all over the UK. Being able to give back to the community and hearing from service users over the years has been a highlight.

“I’ve always liked to help other people and I feel very proud to be part of Switchboard and its history” – Roy

Roy, Volunteer (he/him)

I joined because I wanted to give something back to the community. I had a lot of time on my hands. I’ve always liked to help other people and I feel very proud to be part of Switchboard and its history. It’s obviously a well-known organisation that does a lot for the community. It’s always nice to help people when they’re coming out, those are the best type of calls. I like feeling at the end of the day that I’ve helped someone.

You can donate to the helpline here. If you need help you can call Switchboard on 0800 0119 100. You can also email hello@switchboard.lgbt. You can chat to someone over web chat here as well.

The post ‘I like feeling at the end of the day that I’ve helped someone’: Switchboard volunteers share their experiences at LGBT+ helpline appeared first on Attitude.