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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 2 – Intermediate)
Topic: Volunteer (11/23/06)

By Annette Agnello


When I was in college I needed to do an internship somewhere and I had a room-mate who worked at RAFT a crisis hotline. I decided to join Anne working there and get my credits toward my degree.

You took training that simulated the various types of calls so when they came you could handle it. There could be drug calls, suicide calls, or domestic violence calls. Someone might call wanting information about abortions. Or help recovering in their broken spirit after they had one. Once we went through training, you had to be supervised for a month or more till you were ready to handle things on your own.

In my case my first call was asking for the number to call to dispose of a dead pigeon in their yard. That was an easy call to get, you looked it up in one of the many references in the call-room and gave them the phone number.

One girl who was in training to work there was afraid she would not be able to handle one of the more serious calls. So of course the very first call she answered was a suicide call. We all watched prepared to come to her rescue if she needed help. She did a good job, we were all proud of her.

The worst call I ever had was during a storm, another suicidal person and the storm took out the phone line. When you take a call after talking for a while you calm the person down to where you are confident they wouldn’t hurt themself tonight. One day at a time is still the best way to get a person with problems to a place they can live with even their worst problems. When the line went down they were not ready to face tomorrow. I was horrified fortunately they did call back and I found out they had weathered the storm.

I volunteered to get credit for class but I got much more from the experience. I learned a lot of caring for my fellow man. I learned to really listen, and that by simply hearing what they were trying to say. There are lonely hurting people who need a listening ear and a helping hand.

There were good examples, the secretary who had grown up on a Kibitz in Israel, told me of Masada for the first time. One of the department heads had such a calm spirit that in the six years I knew him I only heard him raise his voice once. It was such a rare experience the three of us who heard him stopped what we were doing in shock. Many people there played music and would save part of their lunch hours Monday through Thursday to spend it in a nearby park playing music on Fridays. Of course people, being people, were bad examples too. The hippie type who was in the Native American Church simply because they were the only ones who could legally use Peyote (a natural plant based hallucinogenic drug). There was the fellow who liked to hunt and had squirrel tails preserved and hanging from his mirror in his car.

You would effect peoples lives, the drug user who wanted freedom, the rape victim who wanted comfort, the young person who wanted to know where to register to vote, or sometimes just wanted help with their homework. Never knew who would be on the other end of the line or what they needed. You had to be a workman without need of rebuke, ready in season and out of season. It was a good thing to volunteer at the RAFT. If nothing else I learned a lot about myself, and my fellow man.

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Member Comments
Member Date
Donna Powers 12/01/06
I enjoyed learning about your experiences. It certainly seems like you had a great experience. Nice work.