In her new job as director general of Tel-Aide, broadcaster-journalist Anne Lagacé Dowson is eager to get the word out – the free, non-judgmental listening service is there for you, and volunteers are needed to help it continue its essential role.
Among her immediate challenges is to publicize the fact that Tel-Aide is the oldest crisis line in Montreal, and the only one that functions 24 hours a day in English and French.
Equally important is to recruit “a new generation of active listeners,” who can continue to offer what Tel-Aide demands of its volunteers – an empathetic, authentic, and respectful ear to those who call.
Founded in January, 1971, Tel-Aide’s philosophy reflects the approach of American psychologist Carl Rogers, who emphasized active listening to reach the potential for good in all of us.
“There are no judgments, simply intelligent and supportive listening for people who are having a hard time,” Lagacé Dowson said.
At the moment, about 120 listeners are staffing the service with four telephone lines at its offices near the Guy metro, but Tel-Aide needs about 100 more volunteers, particularly English speakers. Those who complete the training are expected to be available eight hours a month.
After an initial interview, applicants will undergo a training program by peers with expertise in active listening. They include social workers and psychologists.
The volunteers are asked to “simply provide a friendly sounding board for people who are sinking down under anxiety and stress,” Lagacé Dowson said.
“The ideal recruit is an active retiree, someone who’s got lot on the ball, and energy, and is available to do shifts of four hours. It requires a certain level of commitment, and an intellectual structure that allows you to internalize and understand our mission.”
After training over three days for a total of about 25 hours – the next sessions starts in May – volunteers are supported in three shifts and then handle three shifts on their own before joining the team.
“We’re there as bridge people to the next phase, to make people feel that they are not alone, which is critical.”
If you feel isolated or lonely, or want to volunteer at Tel-Aide, call 514-935-1105.