In May when the Sweet Water Foundation launched its e-services via telephone: 800-4444 (Monday to Friday 10 am to 4 pm); Whatsapp 534-5769 and email- firstname.lastname@example.org they expected prank calls and many more calls from teens and children, as it was dubbed a “Child Helpline.” However, 3 months in, to date, 80% of calls have been from adults.
According to Dr Hazel Da Breo, Director of the Sweet Water Foundation, “Initially we did get a lot of those prank calls we were warned about by Child Helpline International (CHI), the global network of 181 child helplines in 147 countries, but despite whatever type of call we suspect it might be, we maintain the same level of professionalism for every single call we receive. This is important to us because what we do find is that someone making a prank call, to test us, might actually be someone with an underlying issue they want to discuss but don’t know how. So we must remain the neutral and professional safe place to call so that if a situation does indeed arise for them, they can call us and we will be at their service.”
The Sandals Foundation, partnering sponsor for the helpline, recently held an open forum for staff at Sandals Grenada; there, the question of the identity and ability of the counsellors was highlighted. Dr Da Breo assured they are qualified and trained to handle a wide variety of situations. “Our helpline operators are local psychologists who are all educated between the Masters and Doctoral level. If someone calls in and they recognise the voice on the other end, they politely redirect the call to another counsellor.”
She also reiterated that callers’ identity is anonymous. “We have no caller ID or GPS at the helpline. When you call, you are only who you say you are, we have no means of identifying our callers. If you call repeatedly we do ask for a name, not necessarily your real name, but a pseudonym you’d like to be, just so that we know you are that person, who called yesterday and that was the matter discussed.”
The helpline so far has been able to avert children from running away from home, counsel persons considering self-harm and harm to others. “Although most of our calls so far have not been from children, we know that helping adult callers could mean protecting children, so we encourage and embrace all calls received.”
Further the issue of child protection during the carnival season was also brought to the fore. “In the coming weeks we do expect an influx of calls, as schools are on break and this is carnival. If you need someone to talk to, to guide you through or out of a situation, we are here for you,” said Dr Da Breo.
Grenada’s Child Helpline can be contacted via Telephone: 800-4444, Monday to Friday 10 am to 4 pm, or around the clock via Whatsapp: 534-5769 or email: email@example.com.