Lonely, sick people, elderly people abandoned by their children, children with difficulties in school, men and women with mental disabilities. There are so many calls that arrive every day at Friend Phone, a service active throughout Italy 365 days a year, with about 400 volunteers ready to listen, to console, to give company, vocal support. Anyone experiencing emotional, existential discomfort finds a real friend on the other end of the phone. Just dial it 02.23272327, from 10 in the morning to 24 to find telephone help. A service that keeps up with technology and which now also provides support via whatsapp (324.0117252) and via email (mail@mica which can be accessed by filling in the format from the appropriate banner on the association’s website).
In Palermo, just in these days, the 50 years of service activity in the Sicilian capital. Throughout Italy there are about twenty centers covering the entire national territory. Phone calls are sorted by a switchboard and support is provided by volunteers regardless of the city from which the “rescue” call originates.
“The service it absolutely is anonymous and free – explains Giancarlo Cappanera, one of the Palermitan volunteers who has been giving his time with love, passion and calmness for 18 years, with that reassuring, comforting tone of voice, ready to listen and serve others -. Our role is to listen to those calling, to support them, to make them talk, to give them a friendly voice”.
And so there are those who rely on volunteers to tell their vicissitudes, from the woman left by her husband who does not provide for child support, to the elderly who feel betrayed and abandoned by their children who have first implemented some trick to have checking accounts or properties.
“There are people who call because they feel alone – continues Cappanera, who already at the age of 18 was carrying out a voluntary service for phocomelic children in a hospital in Palermo -. The validity of our telephone support is verbal. There are people who don’t talk to anyone and we are their lifeline. Many psychologists or psychiatrists recommend contacting the helpline, there are those who turn to us even in the throes of suicidal crises”.
To save men and women from the drama of loneliness, desperation, illness, it is not enough just to be ready to listen or want to lend a hand. This is a starting condition, but those who become part of the volunteers must first try their hand at a intensive training course and indispensable.
“Our training – explains Giuseppe Pirrone, the president of the Telephone Amico of Palermo – is demanding. It takes about six months to become part of our list of volunteers, which today in Palermo has 31 men between 30 and 85 years old. It begins with a selective and self-selective interview, because one might also realize that they are not ready to support such an emotionally demanding service”. There is a theoretical part but also another practice on communication and listening. “A large part of the course consists of simulated phone calls – adds Pirrone – and 16 meetings are attended. Another ten meetings, on the other hand, are carried out alongside expert volunteers. The aspiring volunteer listens to the phone calls in speakerphone and then tries to lead a chat, always alongside an older colleague. A long but necessary path to be sure that volunteering for Telephone Amico is the right choice”.
In short, joining the team is certainly a source of pride. An important step, demanding but with a fullness of mind that is difficult to describe, a service to others that is based on the ability to know how to listen, with great humility and fortitude. Anyone wishing to try to become one of the volunteers can send a request to email@example.com. It’s not an easy path, but it’s one of those roads that leads to happiness. To the happiness of mind, to the happiness of those who we can make feel good by just giving them our voice.
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