Last night I ran an online training session for YouthNet’s chat moderator volunteers (I’ve written a post about what is is like to moderate real time support chat for young people here). We all joined a chat room in YouthNet’s online volunteer community for an evening session.
The focus of this chat was talking therapies – learning more about them and sharing knowledge as well as discussing how they might come up in support chats and what we, as moderators, can do to make sure the young people who come to the session get the right information.
Good practice for running a training session in a chat room
Using a chat room for training sessions enables you to have more real time discussion. It brings everyone involved in a project or role together at the same time. It’s particularly useful if those being trained are spread out around the country. Some of the things I’ve learnt from running online training chats include: Continue reading →
Just before Christmas I wrote a piece for the Guardian on why I volunteer at Christmas. It was a personal explanation of my motivation to volunteer, why I’ve continued to do so since leaving YouthNet and why it’s particularly important at Christmas.
It was one of a series on Christmas volunteering. It was the only one about online or virtual volunteering. I’m glad it was represented – I’ve managed online volunteers for many years and have seen it becoming increasingly popular, especially in support work. I wanted to explain in a bit more detail how it can have as much, if not more, impact as your more traditional face to face volunteering.
A more detailed description of what running a live support chat is actually like can be found here. Here’s some more info on the volunteer role I managed for five years – online peer advisors. If you’d like to chat support volunteering, virtual volunteering, training volunteers and giving peer support online, drop me a line.
Now I’m off to open up TheSite.org chat room for another Sunday support session.
What does moderating real time support chat online for 10 – 25 young community members involve?
Every other Sunday I moderate support chat on TheSite.org. TheSite runs a number of types ofchat – I’ve also been an expert for their recent Mindfulness chat. I used to do moderation as part of my role as Advice and Training Manager at YouthNet – but since leaving I have continued in a volunteer capacity.
Support chat is the most common type of chat. For two hours, four evenings a week, the chat room is open for anyone to sign into. Usually it’s community members who come along (young people who are regular chat and discussion forum users) but sometimes it’s a gateway for new people to discover TheSite’s support service. Chatting in real time helps to strengthen the community who gather around the discussion forums. And sometimes regular forum users come into chat under a different name to discuss a more confidential issue.
Support chat is a group peer support space. It allows young people to chat in real time about their difficulties, get peer support from others and give people the benefit of their own experiences and suggestions. Sometimes it is a space for chat and distraction.
It’s a non judgmental and safe space. It is the role of the moderator to keep it that way – even when it gets very busy. Sometimes the chat transcripts can run to 80-100 pages when downloaded into Word. That’s a lot of support for an evening. In general there is a strong focus on managing mental health and wellbeing, although lots of other topics come up too. These can include friendships, relationships, self harm, accessing health services, school and college, online dating, bereavement, music and X Factor (to name a few!).
A moderator’s role
As a moderator I will be ensuring that everybody in the chat gets support and noone is ignored. This can involve offering suggestions and signposts or encouraging others to offer peer support. I am not there as a counsellor and would never diagnose or tell someone what they should do. Instead I am there to facilitate peer support, to give young people the space to talk and help them decide what courses of action are right for them. Continue reading →
On the Wednesday before Christmas, my colleague and friend Laura and I went to help out with the Great Ormond Street and Radio Lollipop‘s Rockin’ Reindeer Christmas parties. Usually we volunteer for Radio Lollipop in Great Ormond Street on a Wednesday evening. We spend two hours after work each week visiting and playing with children on the wards, while other volunteers run a radio show. The children can request songs and enter competitions on different themes each week.
At Christmas, there’s lots more than usual going on. A couple of Saturdays before, we both helped out at a Tin Pan Annie concert (fundraising for Radio Lollipop) where we dressed up as a snowflake and a reindeer, waved at and danced with kids during songs – then shook buckets at the end.
The Rockin’ Reindeer Christmas parties were held over two days, two on Wednesday and two on Thursday, each for an hour and a half. We were both helping on Wednesday afternoon and we spent the parties running a craft table where children who were at the hospital at the moment, or had been in 2011, could do some sticking, gluing, colouring and, in this picture, making reindeer out of playdough. We also did some celeb spotting, spying the Weasley twins, Tess Daley, the Radio 1 crew, a Santa Claus who sounded suspiciously like Boris Johnson and a number of stormtroopers (do they count as celebs!).
This is a write up of my thoughts, experience and findings from the In Petto conference ‘Exploring Online Peer to Peer Support’ in Antwerp. I attended this, along with a volunteer peer advisor last November.
Structures and systems for providing online peer support.
At the conference we were focusing in more depth on peer support and how this could be given online. Before giving our own workshop, we heard from a range of other organisations, each with quite different ways of offering peer support online. Continue reading →