Helpline 116 open and free for teens
25 April 2012
By: Vimbai Karumazondo
WINDHOEK-The ChildLine / Lifeline helpline 116 continues to help young teens get the necessary advice and help they need when it comes to reporting cases of abuse.
Officially launched last June, the ChildLine / LifeLine 116 helpline is a result of Namibia being a member state of Child Helpline International (CHI), which aims to create helplines in all member states for children under the age of 18 years. The toll free number helpline is open everyday including public holidays from eight o’clock in the morning (08h00) to ten o’clock at night (22h00). “We were able to get helpline with the help from the Ministry of Information, MTC, Telecom and LEO so to get a toll free number. We wanted to get a safe way for children to report any violence, neglect or abuse which they may be facing without having to be concerned about having money to make the call. Why the telephone? This is because most of the people have cellphones and they can call us,” says ChildLine / Lifeline Khomas Regional Manager, Melissa Smith.
Smith goes on to say that when callers call in, they are attended to by a counselor and depending on the severity of the case such as sexual abuse, the counselor then gives the victim advice on what to do. “All of the counselors we have are trained in psychology, counseling skills as well child counseling and are very competent to handle any situation. We tell the callers that they need to report the case,” she informs.
Lifeline /Childline also works in partnership with the Legal Assistance Centre (LAC), the Peace Trauma Centre and the Women and Child Protection Unit. “ We work together to help the child, at the end of the day we would like to see the perpetrators behind bars, after which the child still gets continuous counseling to build back their emotional resilience,” she adds. Often when they do call in with serious cases, children are initially resistant to speak and report abuse. “Eventually the children do become willing because they also want the abuse to stop. We get in touch of the Women and Child Protection Unit’s social worker who then investigates, and if all findings are true and in line with the child’s accusations, then a case is opened against the perpetrator, if the child knows who it is. In most cases it is someone that is known to the child,” she says.
The LAC then prepares the child and the family for the court on the basics of what to do in court, possible questions and the next step is to the Peace Centre for trauma counseling for the victim. “People call in with real cases. We received about 1100 calls for March alone, and most of the calls are children that call the helpline testing to see if the number is real or they call and they are just silent and hang up the phone. We try to encourage then to talk and if they are not ready to, that they can call us back again and we educate them on what the line is for,” she says.
Often it is not just children that call in but adults who might be a neighbour to a victim or that knows of someone that is being abused elsewhere. One of the challenges that the Helpline faces is a shortage of volunteers, considering that ChildLine / Lifeline was started with the help of volunteers and there is a need to keep that going. “We are always looking for volunteers apart from the staff who can help us on line and that’s our challenge finding them to come in. The type of volunteer that we are looking for is a person who is really passionate about helping others, knows the whole counseling aspect, e.g confidentiality and really assisting our callers,” she adds.
She encourages people who would like to make use of the helpline to do so as there are people willing to help, have a passion for helping others and always try to keep the best interest of the clients at heart.
Other helpline numbers include:
The Adult crisis line for counseling – 232221,
The Generic sms line – 081 140 0222
and the Health Education Response sms line - 081 661 4000.
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