The Invisible Safety Net for British Columbians: Volunteer Appreciation Week
April 19, 2022
Vancouver, BC — In recent months and years, British Columbians have endured both the COVID-19 pandemic as well as a multitude of natural disasters and now a war in Ukraine. And throughout it all, volunteer crisis responders have consistently provided an invisible safety net.
Last year, the phones at the Crisis Centre of BC — located in Vancouver and primarily serving the Lower Mainland, Sunshine Coast and Sea-to-Sky — rang a total of 97,518 times. Our centre, along with others in British Columbia who answer 310-6789 (BC-wide mental health line) and 1-800-SUICIDE, relies on a volunteer-driven model.
“Eighty per cent of the folks on our lines are volunteers. We train about 130 volunteers a year and have 271 active volunteer responders at the moment,” says Stacy Ashton, executive director of the Crisis Centre of BC. “We believe that supporting people through crisis is not something you need to have a professional credential to do. Essentially you’re talking to a highly-trained peer when you’re talking to a volunteer because we’ve all been through a crisis.”
The Centre trains and supports extraordinary individuals who share their skills as volunteers not only on the phone lines and in chat rooms, but also in classrooms, at community events, and in training rooms and offices at the Centre.
Retention of these highly-trained volunteers is essential to delivering the services British Columbians rely upon. Over 65 per cent of volunteer crisis response complete their initial commitment of 250 hours of service last year and of those, 85 per cent continued on into other roles such as volunteer trainers, staff, or made an additional volunteer commitment to answer calls and chats.
“This year, rather than asking our donors to make a donation this spring, we have asked them to write a brief note of appreciation to honour our volunteers. For this years’ Volunteer Appreciation Week, we will have a ceiling full of personal notes on cards designed to look like flowers,” says Ashton. “It’s about bringing some of the joy we experience in spring into our phone room.”
The public is encouraged to also send a note of appreciation. Digital flower cards can be found online at: crisiscentre.bc.ca/spring2022.
If you or someone you know is in crisis, please reach out:
- Mental Health Support Line: 310-6789 (no area code required)
- Anywhere in BC 1-800-SUICIDE: 1-800-784-2433
- Online Chat Service for Youth: www.YouthInBC.com (Noon to 1am)
- Online Chat Service for Adults: www.CrisisCentreChat.ca (Noon to 1am)
Director, Development and Communications