Volunteer finds purpose in her life by helping others

The Calgary Distress Centre is often the first point of contact for those who just need somebody to listen.

Dealing with individuals in crises is what volunteers like Michelle Wise are trained for, including responding to calls that involve matters of life and death.

“Listening was crucial in these calls because if you didn’t listen to what they were saying you might miss something and they may feel like they are not being heard and hang up,” says Wise.

The Distress Centre is a non-profit organization put in place to provide an unbiased and caring ear for those in need of counseling during personal disasters. Wise is one of the 396 volunteers trained to respond to crisis calls.

Michelle Wise feels rewarded about her time spent at the Calgary Distress Centre, a place where each day she felt as though she was able to make a difference in somebody’s life.

Photo by Jennifer Price Wise volunteered at the Distress Centre as part of her social work practicum at the University of Calgary.

Prior to beginning her volunteer experience she went through 40 hours of in class training over a three-week period, along with a few shadow shifts where someone would listen in to ensure she could manage the call effectively.

“It’s a very thorough training process, almost everything they taught us in the training program I feel like I learnt through social work, just a condensed version of it.”

Through her volunteer work she has answered many calls, some of which weren’t always pleasant.

“I think the hardest is when people are suicidal and they hang up on you,” Wise recalled.

“The first time I was terrified,” she said quietly before explaining that not all calls are like that. “There’s one guy who would call because he just wanted someone to talk to because he was lonely. He talked about wanting to be an actor, so we would just listen to him and provide support.”

 “I would tell myself that there are reasons for living and that these callers believed that, and my job was to bring that out in them.”

– Michelle Wise,  former volunteer for the Calgary Distress Centre

In the one year Wise served at Calgary’s Distress Centre she feels as though it was one of her most rewarding experiences to date.

“I feel as a member of a society, I’m serving a purpose by helping people in need,” she says. “I would tell myself that there are reasons for living and that these callers believed that, and my job was to bring that out in them.”

jprice@cjournal.ca