Spain - 45th ANNIVERSARY OF THE FOUNDING OF ’THE TELEPHONE OF HOPE’

The ’Sant Andreu’ community is in one of the oldest districts of Barcelona (Catalonia) and has a strong industrial tradition. The people of Sant Andreu are very hardworking and combative and, at the same time, very festive. At present the population numbers around 190,000, with a majority of retired persons although there is a fine group of dwellings where there are young couples with their children. There is very little immigration. 
 
Our community consists of six retired sisters who, in spite of our age, are all filled with enthusiasm for our Charism/mission so that the ’Reign of Christ’ will soon come and be a reality among all of us. As is normal, we all have reached the age for retiring from work and with the people, who themselves make room for us so that we might continue, in line with our possibilities, helping/loving the most deprived who are the friends of Jesus, and our friends. 
 
In this ’Pain Chez Nous’ I should like to tell you what the voluntary work in the ’Telephone of Hope’ service represents for me. 
 
At the present time we are celebrating the 45th anniversary of the beginning of this service of ’listening’ to any person who calls us with their diffi-culties and problems. It is a 24/24 hour service, and operates 365 days a year. The telephone number 93.414.48.48 can be answered from two booths. The person who needs our service pays for the call. 
 
There are 198 volunteers. People accepted for this service must be at least 27 years old. The selection is very rigorous and is aimed at choosing persons who are balanced, discreet, responsible and who have the ability and strength for ’listening’ with the aim of letting the persons who call express themselves and with them, seek the solution for their sufferings/distress etc. We are asked to act in line with the principles and values that guide the Service: anonymity, confidentiality, professional secrecy, not giving advice, neutrality, efficiency and responsibility. There are four turns of duty in the 24 hours: from 8 a.m. to 12 midday; from 12 midday to 4 p.m.; from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. and from 8 p.m. to 8 a.m. the following morning. 
 
We have an initial three-month training period and, every two months, there is in-service training aimed at helping us with regard to the problems we listen to and so be able to understand and help better. We present ourselves/Welcome with a listening/loving attitude so that, from the first moment, people may sense that at the other end of the telephone line there is somebody who will listen to them so give them support and so lessen their anxiety or worry that they want to share with us. If the conversation is prolonged, reaching 45 minutes and no solution has been found by the two of them, we offer them an address where perhaps they might finally go and in the end see more clearly what they are seeking and what worries them. 
 
In dealing with persons who are weeping and cannot express themselves, we take things slowly and wait until they recover, so respecting their silence, and then we embark on a conversation. The problems/worries that reach us are multiple: personal, married persons, couples, infidelities, teenagers, aged persons, loneliness, mental illnesses, suicide, alcoholism, addiction to gambling, drugs, unemployment, evictions. At the moment, with the economic crisis, the number of call has increased; last year there were 19,980. The call that every volunteer fears above all is the one to do with suicide, because of the responsibility involved and the skill that is needed so that the person may feel very well received in those moments of despair and that we may enter into his distress, trying to keep talking to the person and trying to obtain an address so that help may be sent (there is a connection for communication between the two telephone kiosks, and it is possible to pass on the address received and so make an emergency call). It is true, we always have a question as to how things worked out in the end, although some persons have telephoned after a few days to thank us for listening to them, listening that for them was effective. 
 
All the Little Sisters try to help our sisters and brothers, offering simple services that are in line with our Charism. I believe that the ’Telephone of Hope’ is fully at the service of the family since, in attending to one family member, it is possible to disentangle misunderstandings within the family as a whole. Also, it makes one see that one’s own small problems are tiny if they are compared with those that many people have to cope with. I also thank God and the community for the fourteen years I have passed in this service, believing it is a service to the poorest because, even though ’I cannot see their face’, they give me all their confidence. 
 
Teresa Miquel, Little Sister
28/07/2014
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