The Galway branch of LGBT Ireland base their operations in Teach Solais and from there do their part in staffing the support helpline that LGBT Ireland provide. The confidential helpline and online chat offer support for the LGBT+ community. In addition to the helpline they also run monthly peer support groups. This article comes from one of their dedicated and anonymous volunteers. For more information on LGBT Ireland see lgbt.ie
For the past three years I have been a volunteer with the newly renamed LGBT Ireland, formerly known as LGBT Helpline. I initially started with LGBT Ireland in 2015 when they were establishing the Galway office for the helpline. I had been looking for some volunteer opportunities in the Galway area as I had just completed my undergrad degree and knew I would have some time spare to give back to the community. Luckily someone had shared a post on facebook about the establishment of the line in Galway so I jumped at the chance to volunteer with them. From the first information meeting I was impressed with the type of support offered by the helpline to those who need it. When I started with the line we offered just a calling service, where people can call and discuss any LGBT+ related issues or queries they may have. Since that however, the addition of an online web chat service has also been added, this is a great service for those who don’t have the privacy to chat on the phone or who struggle with phone calls in general.
Volunteering on the line is an incredibly rewarding experience. The calls and chats that come in can be extremely varied in nature. We can get lovely calls such as parents who have had their children come out to them and they want to educate themselves so that they can show their kids that they love them just the same. While we can get nice calls like that often there are much tougher ones to handle, such as calls about coming out, mental health or sexual health. We also handle a lot of information calls such as what LGBT+ events are on in different areas, what venues are considered LGBT+ friendly or simply where to meet other LGBT+ individuals.
In order to volunteer with the helpline each and every volunteer undergoes training and garda vetting. The training ensures that each volunteer is given a depth of knowledge and confidence in handling the wide variety of calls or chats that can happen. As well as the initial training volunteers undergo, an annual training weekend is held in order to regularly ensure that the training of every person involved is up to date on current issues. From volunteering I can see the amount of care and dedication that goes into each and every call and chat from each volunteer in my branch. It’s incredibly reassuring to know that such a vital service is available on a national level to provide a sense of community and being heard and understood to those that need it.
Teach Solais has been an instrumental space in the strengths of the Galway branch. By having the resource centre we have been able to hold a monthly support group. Prior to Teach Solais being opened this is something that logistically wouldn’t have been possible to hold as we wouldn’t have been able to obtain a central, reliable space to hold such a group. The group has changed due to demand to a First Out Group for LGBT Men. This peer support group is held on the first Thursday of each month and is there to give LGBT men a space to meet and discuss any issues or concerns in a safe, confidential, non judgemental space.
On a personal level I am incredibly proud to be involved with such a dedicated and hard working organisation. The work done by LGBT Ireland is irreplacable and extremely important within the community.
If you feel that volunteering with LGBT Ireland is something you would be interested in doing go to http://lgbt.ie/volunteering to find out more information about upcoming volunteering opportunities.