Making a difference in someone else’s life is invaluable … but so is doing something that will have a positive impact on your own life. Colin Rogers is a Telephone Crisis Supporter with Lifeline and says the personal rewards he has received through this role are immense.
Are you looking for something that will fulfil both your need to help others, but also aid in your own personal growth and development? Lifeline may just have the solution …
Introduce yourself please, Colin …
I‘m a high school English teacher; I’ve been teaching 27 years. I’ve taught in Brewarrina, Broken Hill, Nowra and – in the Northern Territory – in Katherine and Tennant Creek. I absolutely love my job. Every teaching day is a great one. Teen students are full of life, and that seems to rub off on me. I came to Port Macquarie High in 2004.
I’m a dad and granddad. There is nothing greater than being a granddad, I reckon. I love the beach and the natural environment of this region. I’m also a keen dancer − especially Latin dancing. I can’t stand shopping, but I don’t mind it if it involves the purchase of chocolate!
Sadly, I am a Doctor Who tragic … well, that’s how others describe it. I came from a large family. I have ten brothers and sisters. Unfortunately, too many of them have lost lives to drugs and alcohol. I’m learning Auslan at TAFE, so I can communicate better in the deaf community. I’ve enjoyed working with blind students, two of whom I have taught to dance. My highlight in teaching was being Year Advisor for six years. That has brought me unforgettable and cherished memories.
I haven’t always been a teacher. I was a coal miner, and I worked as a housing officer in the Housing Commission.
My parents immigrated to Australia with nine children in tow and added one in Australia. I grew up in the Illawarra.
Why did you decide to become involved with Lifeline?
I was a Year Advisor for 6 years, and in other schools I have worked in similar roles. I found that some students faced a variety of issues that I was able to help with. Upon reflection, I felt uncomfortable with myself about issues I wasn’t able to assist with. I simply didn’t have the understanding or the skill. Compassion and empathy I had by the bucket load, but that wasn’t always enough.
A chance encounter with someone who had just come off a shift on the phones helped me realise that was the way to go. Get formal training and skilling in the areas I lacked and apply them on the phones AND, more importantly, apply them to family, friends and MYSELF.
What training did you actually complete with Lifeline, and what was involved with the process?
The training is FANTASTIC! It is at the cutting edge in theory and absolutely follows world’s best practice. There is an online component that is very manageable and fascinating. You need to do the modules, and they are followed up in a class setting held once per week in the evening. It is in this class that things are clarified and you get to put it into practise through role plays. There is an incredible amount of support from the Lifeline team. They are a caring and loving (yes, loving!) team and very professional, enthusiastic and encouraging.
In what capacity do you volunteer with Lifeline now, and how many hours do you volunteer each week?
I volunteer as a Telephone Crisis Supporter. I do four hours per fortnight. These are high demand hours, as they are at night and on the weekend. We are cautioned not to rush in. I aim to increase the hours when it is appropriate for me to do so.
In addition to the valuable service you’re obviously providing to the community, what are the benefits you believe you’ve personally received through your work with Lifeline?
Incredibly, I’m the one who benefits the most! It’s an awesome responsibility when people call and need help. But, the skills I have learned, and continue to learn, help me deal with my own daily troubles. When my family turns to me for support, I’m much better at getting to the problem and helping them come to their own successful resolutions.
I’m also privileged to work with a team which really cares and shows genuine interest in me and the work we are involved in together. The support is so uplifting. Volunteering with Lifeline gives you the greatest buzz. I love it, but that isn’t quite the right word. It is also very humbling, yet enriching and rewarding at the same time.
You must get to listen to lots of concerns and issues brought up by people from all different walks of life in your role as a Crisis Support Volunteer. You obviously have to deal with tragedies and traumas at times … what would you say to people who have the perception that a role with Lifeline would be too depressing, or upsetting?
Helping others in a crisis is an incredibly fulfilling thing. No matter what the trauma, whether helping someone deal with personal issues, family issues, loneliness, grief, mental health or suicide issues, you are working with the caller to help them come to the answers they need. It is about them. That is the amazing thing. It is not about me.
However, Lifeline insists on self care – looking after yourself. This is a part I love. They actually tell you to do something nice for yourself! They even get a kick out of it if you share with them what you plan to treat yourself with. I’ve lost that guilty feeling of doing something for myself, and I really enjoy the uplift I get. So, this is the part that is about you and not about the caller.
Lifeline’s ‘catch cry’ is: treat each caller with unconditional positive regard. If that is all I learned from Lifeline, it is the most precious gift I could have. It has totally changed my outlook. I have let go of so many negative attitudes and judgements. It is mind liberating. I am so glad to be part of Lifeline, and I really look forward to my fortnightly ‘shift’.
If you want to help others in a meaningful way – join Lifeline. Don’t worry if you feel wary about how you will go. The training will benefit you, but the support from the Lifeline team will nurture you over the line. The course is the only qualification you need. You are in for an incredible experience. Don’t wonder any more – just sign up! The Lifeline Crisis Support line number is 13 11 14.
Interview by Jo Atkins.