Leeds Childline volunteer urges people to play their part in keeping children safe

A Leeds Childline volunteer is urging people to play their part in helping to keep children safe through the power of play for the NSPCC’s Childhood Day.

Friday, 4th June 2021, 4:45 pm
Since April last year, Childline has delivered almost 90,000 counselling sessions to young people across the UK about mental health or abuse.

Julia Plazzi, 24, from Leeds who has been volunteering at the Yorkshire Childline base since 2017 is urging people to show their support for the children’s charity whilst having fun playing together on June 11. Julia became a volunteer for the online contacts only base in the heart of Leeds city centre since first encountering the service when she was at school.

Julia said: “I had contacted Childline as a young girl myself, I had faced bullying when I was younger because of my dual nationality and for me it was a safe haven, somewhere to talk. Then I remember Childline coming into my school, we had a day of learning about becoming a peer support mentor, I got a certificate and then at lunchtime friends could come and talk to me if ever they were feeling upset. So those experiences made me realise I always wanted to be there for young people.”

When she applied to become a volunteer, Julia was a student studying social psychology, she said: “I didn’t think I would be in any way qualified. But actually, Childline prides itself on recruiting volunteers who can empathise with children and young people. It is about who you are as a person.”

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Julia Plazzi

Julia’s appeal for more of us to sign up for the NSPCC’s fundraising Childhood Day comes as stark new data highlights the huge toll of the pandemic on young people.

Since April last year, Childline has delivered almost 90,000 counselling sessions to young people across the UK about mental health or abuse. Over the last year, the child protection charity has grown increasingly concerned about the impact of the pandemic on children’s wellbeing and on young people living in homes that aren’t safe.

The charity’s Childline volunteer counsellors, as well as supporters and partners, continue to work incredibly hard to ensure the service stays open to provide young people with somewhere to turn.

Julia thinks it was incredibly important that the service and her fellow volunteers were identified as key workers during the pandemic. She said: “I take real pride in being here for children every time I come on shift, to know that after taking such a big step to open up and tell a stranger their worries and fears they know we will be here for them, without judgement.

Over the last year, the child protection charity has grown increasingly concerned about the impact of the pandemic on children’s wellbeing.

As we only take online contacts I think this helps young people and children have a real platform to open up, to process what they want to say and really express themselves more than perhaps they could over the telephone. They can be creative and can take their time especially if they are feeling panicked or scared.”

Now, as lockdown continues to ease, the NSPCC is calling on people everywhere to play their part in giving children a great summer and brighter future, to celebrate childhood by organising a play event on June 11 to raise money and help keep children safe. In a new film launched by the charity, it encourages people to play their part for children by downloading a fundraising pack and organising a play event for Childhood Day.

But it is not about just one day of fundraising, Julia hopes that people will also consider offering their time and become a volunteer for Childline.

She said: “It is not just a day for raising money but an opportunity too. I would say please use this day to give yourselves and your family a moment to enjoy, to reflect on this last year, to play and know that whilst playing together you are doing so much good for young people everywhere.

Julia thinks it was incredibly important that the service and her fellow volunteers were identified as key workers during the pandemic.

“No matter how long the service runs for I am always mindful of a key phrase that I use in any online chat I have with a child or young person, that it is up to them to decide what they want to share, it is completely their choice as long as they know they will be listened to and they won’t be judged.”

Children can contact Childline every day of the week on 0800 11 11 or via childline.org.uk where 1-2-1 online chats can be requested.

Anyone with any concerns about the welfare of a child can call the NSPCC Helpline on 0808 800 5000 or visit nspcc.org.uk for advice.