Volunteer Spotlight: Anika
For anyone thinking of volunteering with Distress Centre, Anika has this advice: “Go for it!”
And: “It’s not as scary as you think.”
When a call, chat or text is received by Distress Centre or ConnecTeen, DC’s youth crisis support service, it’s true that the volunteer doesn’t know what the subject will be and that can feel a little scary. But though we do handle high-risk contacts, including suicide-related contacts, we don’t define crisis at Distress Centre. Someone can contact us because they are grieving, frustrated with a friend or just having a bad day. And they just need to connect with another person who cares.
You’re just a person and the person you’re talking to is also just a person. You can be yourself as a volunteer on the lines.
“You’re just a person and the person you’re talking to is also just a person,” Anika says. “You can be yourself as a volunteer on the lines. You don’t have to be somebody else. You don’t have to be your vision of what the perfect responder is. You’re yourself and that’s enough.”
Anika joined Distress Centre as a ConnecTeen volunteer in early 2019. In that time, she’s answered ConnecTeen texts, chats and calls, became a leadership volunteer – training upcoming ConnecTeen volunteers – and spent some time as a Crisis Line Worker.
Today, she is still a leadership volunteer and sits on the ConnecTeen social media committee.
Anika, now 21, says that she’s stayed with ConnecTeen for over three years because she believes in what Distress Centre stands for as a resource.
“Especially for ConnecTeen, when you’re at that age, it’s really difficult to navigate life and it’s really nice having a resource there that is available to support you,” she said.
ConnecTeen provides youth peer support. From 3-10pm on weekdays and 12-10pm on weekends, youth can speak with a youth volunteer who better understands what they’re dealing with.
Volunteering has allowed Anika to build up many skills she uses in daily life, including communication skills, crisis management, keeping a level head and boundary-setting. It’s also allowed her to have some great conversations with people who have contacted ConnecTeen.
People helping people
Anika recalls one conversation when she realized she had a lot in common with the person she was speaking with. After talking through the person’s issue, they traded recommendations for books and TV shows.
In another conversation, Anika shares this wholesome moment:
“They were really upset and I was validating them. Once they started feeling better, they started validating me! I was like, ‘you go, you have that confidence!’ And the person was like ‘no you’re awesome, thank you for being here!’ And it went on like that for the next couple minutes. That’s a really fond memory.”
The final piece of advice Anika has for prospective volunteers is to accept that there is always more to learn.
“You’re not going to be perfect on your first shift and you’re not going to be perfect ten years down the line either,” she says. “There’s always going to be new perspectives and there’s always going to be things to learn, go in with a growth mindset and you will always keep learning. It’s okay to make mistakes.”
You’re not going to be perfect on your first shift and you’re not going to be perfect ten years down the line either. There’s always going to be new perspectives and there’s always going to be things to learn.
She adds that there’s always somewhere there to support you when you’re volunteering at DC. Staff supervise the volunteers on shift, a leadership volunteer guides a volunteer-in-training through their coaching shifts and every volunteer has a mentor.
For self-care, Anika says she is “a bit like a plant.”
“I like sunshine. I go on walks. I like a good walk. I have a lot of nervous energy sometimes so something I try to do is go on a walk, go on a run, really try to work that out. I also really like taking baths. I’m a big bathbomb fan. I’ve really been enjoying them recently, the nice smells and pretty colours. That’s been my version of self-care recently.”
Thank you Anika for volunteering!
Interested in volunteering with us? Learn more.