January 27th, 2010

More turning to AWARE for help

By Kerry Wilcock

Demand for AWARE’s direct services jumped sharply last year. Calls to the Helpline grew by 40%, while the number of counselling cases increased by more than 200%.

The increases were undoubtedly due to the extensive publicity for AWARE following the attempted takeover in April last year by a faith-based group.

With all the media coverage, many became aware not only of the association’s many achievements  over the past 24 yrs but also of the services offered to women through our helpline, counselling, legal clinic and court assistance services.

The AWARE Helpline was launched in 1990. It is the first point of contact for any woman needing help or wanting to find out about our services.  Trained volunteers handle Helpline calls and provide support, information and encouragement. If callers need additional assistance, they are referred to the counselling, legal clinic or court assistance services.

Why do women call the AWARE Helpline? Last year I heard many people say “I didn’t know that you offered these services”, and “We wanted to come for counselling somewhere neutral and secular”.

What was also noticeable was that women calling AWARE expect that we will ‘fight for their cause’.

While AWARE is sympathetic to and supportive of all who call, the approach we take in our direct services is based on the belief that change takes time and part of the change is empower the individual.

Rina, who has been an AWARE Helpliner for the past 5½ years and has taken calls from hundreds if not thousands of women, explains: “Women need to be informed about their choices and, as a Helpliner, it’s my job to ensure they are empowered to do so.”

The increased demand for our direct services means we need a bigger pool of volunteers. The next Helpline Training Programme starts on 2 March and we look forward to welcoming more members to the Helpline team. This will be our 37th intake of volunteers.

The AWARE Helpline Training Programme is conducted over a period of 3 to 4 months in 3 different phases, each phase building upon the one before. Trainees will be assessed throughout the programme, as well as at the end of Phase I and II, for their suitability to be an AWARE Helpliner.

Helpliners need to be AWARE members and are required to pay a non-refundable training fee of $80. Those who complete the training will be equipped to handle calls not just at the AWARE Helpline but similar services anywhere.

Prospective Helpliners need to:

  • Be women above 23 years of age
  • Have a self-reliant and proactive attitude
  • Agree to the values of the organisation
  • Be able to commit to two 3-hour slots per month for a minimum of a year after completion of basic training
  • Attend refresher training sessions and work under the supervision of our professional staff
  • Support the Helpline and/or AWARE in other ways.

If you would like to become an AWARE Helpliner or find out more about our activities, please send email to  kerry@aware.org.sg or call 67797137.

Kerry Wilcock is AWARE’s Direct Services Manager.

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