English-speaking volunteers wanted for Tel-Aide

With volunteer numbers down, Tel-Aide is running an intensive campaign in the Montreal area to recruit enthusiastic people willing to help those affected with emotional difficulties. Tel-Aide is a non-profit, volunteer-run organization that provides a free, anonymous and completely confidential listening service for people suffering through emotional traumas.

Established in 1971 as Quebec’s first helpline, Tel-Aide is now the largest and sole bilingual helpline in the city of Montreal. Since its inception, Tel-Aide has received over 2 million calls.

Over the last few years, Tel-Aide has seen a dramatic decrease in its number of English-speaking volunteers. Alain Gagnon, a member of Tel-Aide’s board of directors, believes the decrease in volunteers occurred because of an overall decline in the interest of volunteering.

Currently, Tel-Aide has 200 volunteers from all walks of life, including students, teachers and retirees. Unfortunately, this number isn’t large enough to sustain the amount of calls Tel-Aide receives on a daily basis.

“We have so few [volunteers] that we have many, many empty boxes on our schedule. We’re supposed to be able to offer a 24-hour service which we’re not doing right now,” Gagnon said.

Through advertising, media publishing and its presence at volunteer fairs across the city, Tel-Aide hopes to recruit a large number of new volunteers.

“They must [display] some maturity and life knowledge,” said Gagnon, adding that all volunteers must be 21 years old or over. Those interested and of age are invited to an information session in mid-March where board members will be conducting interviews. Selected candidates must then undergo an obligatory and rigorous training program.

The program includes 30 hours of theoretical training, followed by three six-hour sessions of supervised listening. Afterwards, on-going training sessions, workshops and conferences are given for volunteers to ventilate and share their listening experiences with their colleagues, as well as simulate conversations and learn new skills.

Once the training program is completed, volunteers will become a part of the more than 3,800 people who have worked with Tel-Aide over the past 30 years. They are committed to a year, consisting of 120 hours of active listening, and are put on schedule according to their own availabilities.

For more information on Tel-Aide, visit their Web site at www.telaide.org.

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