This week, we’ll be having a new post every single day.
You read that right, a new post from your favorite Sycamores every day this week!
This week, we’ll be focusing on our work sites. We’ll be sharing what we love most about working there and what we’ve learned so far. Our first work site is CONTACT Helpline, where corps member Emily Hibshman is serving as the volunteer coordinator. Read more below the cut.
Working with CONTACT Helpline has been my first exposure into direct human services. While I have always had an interest in helping people, it was usually in big picture ways through advocacy and activism, and I always viewed direct human services work that is too challenging that doesn’t pay enough (which is not entirely incorrect). However, after serving with CONTACT for about six months, I’ve come to love direct human services. The satisfaction of knowing I made an actual, material difference for someone is something I don’t want to give up. I’m even considering pursuing a master’s in social work and continuing in the field.
The biggest lesson I’ve learned from CONTACT is the importance of being truly non-judgmental. On the phones, we practice active listening. One of the main tenants of active listening is being non-judgmental to a caller’s concerns. Typically, we think of judgements in a negative way, such as disliking someone’s taste in music, but judgement works both ways; even a phrase as innocuous as “that sounds good” is a judgement. Active listening focuses on identifying the caller’s feelings and paraphrasing what they’ve said, which displays empathy and understanding. I’ve always struggled with how to comfort my friends, finding the perfect piece of advice to turn their day around, but I’ve realized that’s not what people want most of the time. All they want is a non-judgmental ear to listen to them and validation of their feelings. I find myself strengthening my relationships because I’m not trying to solve my friends’ problems – I’m simply a sounding board. The value of someone who listens can never be overstated.