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The gentle touch of volunteering during lockdown
February 24, 2021
Mary* sends a text. She has had a rough day and needs to talk to someone she trusts.
She knows exactly who to turn to: Helen, one of the volunteers at Emerge, who has been supporting her over the past two years and continues to do so now.
After fleeing a violent partner, Mary is so isolated now that the only contact she has other than services is Helen. Each time she sends a text, she hopes Helen will respond and making time in her week to visit.
Within moments, Helen responds and a day and time is set.
The importance of Emerge’s volunteers was highlighted throughout the two lockdowns in 2020 and in the most recent five-day lockdown.
“Women, like Helen, have provided a crucial connection for women we support in the community,” Jane, Emerge’s Women and Children’s Counsellor, said.
“In a gentle and supportive way, they have been there when needed throughout the last year – a time when being isolated from family and friends has been magnified,” she said.
Mary lives on her own, her children live with their father. She lives in a private rental home which she has turned into a safe refuge. Her challenge is meeting the monthly rental fee but she is getting by. After time in Emerge’s outreach program, she is now taking advantage of its counselling program.
Support from volunteer Helen has many forms, as Mary discovered last year.
It is not just providing a listening ear for her. Helen has worked with Mary linking her to access services she needs, writing a resume and then helping her with online training.
“Writing a resume may be easy for many people but if you have been out of the workforce for a while, it is hard to know what to put in or leave out,” Jane said.
The practical guidance paid off: Mary gained a casual position and is now completing online training modules, something she never thought possible until now.
For Jane, how Mary draws on the support and experience of Helen shows precisely why Emerge’s counselling program is essential.
“Many of the women using the service have come to rely on the emotional support but also the chance to be helped practically.
The counselling service covers assisting women who may be experiencing feelings of grief and loss, anxiety or depression, low confidence and self-esteem issues and trauma symptoms related to their family violence experience.
“What we are about is providing women with the strategies and tools to allow them to move forward and create a positive future for themselves and their families,” Jane said.
*Not her real name