I’ve been a volunteer with the ISPCC for just over six and a half years. I work on the Childline online services for one shift per week, answering texts and live webchats from people under 18 on a variety of issues. I am hugely passionate about the work the ISPCC does and also help out with fundraising/advocacy where I can. This is a post about a particular piece of work I’ve been doing with them every summer for the past three years.
I’ve stood in the scorching sun (yeah, in Ireland, would you believe!?). I’ve stood in the wind that promised rain but didn’t deliver and occasionally I’ve stood in actual rain over the past few summers. I’ll tell ya, we get less of a rainy summer than we think we do!
Things I have learned standing in all weather: if it’s not actually raining we’re really good at convincing ourselves it won’t at all. We don’t think we need suncream until after we’re burned. We don’t much like forward planning at all when it comes to the weather, in fact.
The two top priorities at any gig are the location of the bathrooms and the location of the drink, usually in that order. Famous people influence us probably more than we realise (and that doesn’t apply to teeny boppers alone!).
We really are up for the craic (usually). We love to arrive early to gigs and just sort of hang out. Overall we’re a generous bunch and a friendly bunch too. I’ve seen gigs of a lifetime and gigs I otherwise wouldn’t have gone to if you offered me a free ticket. I’ve seen more flower crowns, welly boots and hippie-chic outfits than I could shake a stick at.
Why was I standing in all weather learning much more about the gig-goers of Ireland than I ever planned to?
This, lads, is a poncho. not the Mexican carpet-y type. The plastic, shelter-you-from-the-rain type. They’re possibly not the most fashionable thing you’ve ever seen, by Christ are they popular in an unexpected downpour in the middle of Marley Park of a summer. I sell them, as a volunteer, as part of a group at most of the outdoor gigs in Dublin each summer.
One of them costs a fiver, but if you buy two we’ll be nice and give you an extra one for free. One for you and a mate and another one to sit on. Sorted!
People are lovely. They buy them in all weather – they’re fierce handy to slip in a bag when you’re going to a match or somewhere else outdoors later on. Sometimes people are sensible and appear in front of us in wellies and a raincoat, brandishing their fiver, buying one to be nice, or just to donate some cash.
Still, you might ask, why would I do that? It’s not even a job, and I’m not into half the musicians playing. I’m not in sales and I have concerns about people who think they don’t need suncream until the tomato impression sets in.
I do it because for every poncho sold, the ISPCC can answer one more call. I’ve been with the ISPCC as a volunteer for over six years now. I’ve answered messages from kids of all ages. Some of those kids have regular kid problems – trouble making friends, loneliness, things that to you and me might not seem earth shattering but to them is an insurmountable pile of emotion and confusion. I’ve also answered the stereotypical calls you think of when someone says the word Childline. I’ve answered them more times than you would want to be made aware of, and I’ve listened as they tell me of feelings and experiences that no child should ever know.
Some shifts it’s hard, because sometimes there’s only so much you can do. But, no matter what, in that moment, when they needed it most, they reached out, and we were there. We can’t always know the long term effect of what we do, but sometimes we get to. And it’s the most amazing thing you’ll ever experience, to know a child came out of that dark.
There are more kids than ever picking up the phone (which is great – I don’t believe it’s an increase in kids experiencing awful things, but an increase in those that are knowing there’s somewhere to turn to) – to move with the times they can text us and live chat with us as well as phone us. if you’re still reading, I don’t need to tell you how vital it is that we keep being on the other end of that outstretched arm when a child reaches out.
So I’ll keep selling ponchos no matter the weather. If you can’t afford a poncho, no matter. Stop and say hi (we’re a friendly bunch), have the chats (it distracts us when we can’t feel our feet from standing), give us a smile (we promise to return the favour), donate or buy if you can. It’s not always an easy job, but you can make it worthwhile.
If you have any questions or comments about the ISPCC and/or the work I do or they do, please feel free to give me a shout, I’d be delighted to chat to you about it!
If you feel the need to chat to someone, please do. Here are some places that provide support:
under 18 years old: ISPCC: 1800 666 666 (24h) /text TALK to 50101 (10am – 4am)/ one-to-one chat online
over 18 years old: Samaritans: ph 116 123/ email: email@example.com