Childline changed this Aberdeenshire volunteer's life
Like many people in the north east, Carrie Zeiler was ably employed in the oil industry.
But volunteering with Childline in 2006 was to change her life.
Four years later, she left Halliburton Oil Company to retrain as a social worker and is now a supervisor with the charity helpline, run by NSPCC Scotland.
Carrie shared her story in the hope that more people will now consider volunteering at the Childine call centre in Aberdeen.
The 40-year-old from Newmachar has no regrets about changing lanes in her career.
She said: “I’d worked for around ten years in my job and was feeling out of place.
“The industry culture in oil and gas is pretty fraught – there is a lot of pressure to make money for clients.
“I found myself feeling very frustrated with the focus on profit. My values were out of step with my environment.
“So I decided to try to meet new people and I thought volunteering could be the right move.
“I discovered the volunteer counsellor role with Childline through the Volunteer Scotland website and decided to give it a go.
“I finished training in November 2006 and I have never looked back – it was definitely the right decision for me.”
Although Carrie herself had a “challenging” childhood, as both her parents had died by the time she was 20, her eyes were soon opened to what some young people have to face.
She said: “It blew my mind and totally changed the way I perceived what was normal – how my experiences as a child differed from so many other people’s.
“I found it quite shocking to read some of the statistics and to realise what some children had to go through – what their “normal” was.”
One young caller was to have such a profound effect on Carrie that she decided to retrain as a social worker, leaving her job in 2010 to undertake a full-time, two year course at Robert Gordon University in Aberdeen.
She explained: “I received a contact from a young person that I didn’t realise would later significantly change my life.
“The child involved faced incredible challenges such as neglect, physical, sexual and emotional abuse.
“They cared for their younger siblings as their mum was deep into drug and alcohol addiction.
“They were in desperate need of support. That young person’s needs were complex and high risk and they really needed the support of Childline.
“It’s those difficult calls I took as a volunteer counsellor that inspired me to retrain as a social worker.”
It is a decision that Carrie has never regretted and she is now a supervisor at the charity’s call centre.
She said: “Working for Childline is different, and more fulfilling, in every way.
“A successful day at the office at my old job involved getting a tool sent to a rig on time; whereas at Childline it literally can be life-saving.”
Carrie has witnessed many changes during the last six years, perhaps most notable being the shift to online services.
Many of the youngsters who contact Childline now do so online.
Carrie said: “When I first started, we focused on the telephone service, which still operates 24 hours a day with counsellors talking to children for as long as they need to.
“However, the service is moving with the times too and youngsters can now create an online account.
“There’s an online chat service for those who fear being overheard and they have their own personal inbox to email us.
“There are also message boards where young people can talk to each other about what’s going on in their lives.”
Working as a supervisor, Carrie helps to train and supervise volunteer recruits for the service.
And she is hoping that her story will prompt more people to come forward.
She added: “It’s a privilege to do what I do. The young people trust us and choose to open up to us – they are incredibly inspiring.
“We’re looking for more volunteers at the moment as we are trying to increase the size of the Aberdeen base.
“It involves around 50 hours of training because of the complex issues involved so we ask volunteers to commit to four hours every week for at least one year.
“The service really does make a difference though and we have volunteers, aged from 16 to 98, who are there to listen and help children.”
To find out more about volunteering, email [email protected]
Donations are always welcome
The NSPCC has two Childline bases in Scotland – in Aberdeen and Glasgow.
In 2017/18 its Childline volunteers delivered almost 280,000 counselling sessions to children and young people across the UK on the phone and online.
The charity estimates that its volunteers delivered around 1800 counselling sessions to children living in Aberdeenshire last year alone.
Some of them are going through the toughest times of their lives. They face issues such as mental/emotional health, family relationships and bullying.
So it’s vital that they have somewhere to turn. Childline – 0800 11 11 and www.childline.org.uk – is there for them 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.
But that wouldn’t be possible without its volunteer counsellors across the UK and Channel Islands who give their time to be there.
On average, a child somewhere in the UK contacts Childline every 25 seconds.
Just £4 could answer a child’s call or contact to Childline.
NSPCC Scotland’s Speak Out Stay Safe (SOSS) service, which helps children learn how to recognise abuse, has also now been delivered in all mainstream primary schools in Aberdeenshire.
In the average class, at least two children have suffered abuse or neglect.
In 2017/18, the NSPCC spoke to more than 1,790,000 children by visiting over 8000 schools across the UK and Channel Islands. Its aim is to reach every child, in every primary. Just £3 could pay for the SOSS programme to reach one child.
The NSPCC relies on donations from the public to provide its services and volunteers to help deliver them.
To find out how you can help, visit www.nspcc.org.uk/what-you-can-do.