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Crisis Line Advocates Needed

  • WISE ambassador volunteers stand ready to give out information about the organization at an Upper Valley Nighthawks game earlier this summer.



Valley News Staff Writer
Saturday, October 01, 2016

Lebanon — Prior to moving back to the Upper Valley for medical school, Georgia Griffin spent a year volunteering in Bolivia at a children’s home.

“That is when I became a lot more aware of domestic violence and the long-lasting health effects of domestic violence,” Griffin, of Norwich, said.

It was also what inspired the second-year Geisel School of Medicine student to become a crisis line volunteer advocate at WISE, an organization that provides support for survivors gender-based violence, which includes domestic violence, sexual assault and stalking.

“I have learned a lot about how to talk to people, especially in moments of crisis, and I think those skills are really important,” Griffin said.

WISE is looking for volunteers to serve on its crisis hotline, with training set to begin Oct. 11. The training program includes 15 hours of learning about gender-based violence and another 15-20 hours of learning how to support survivors.

“The training itself is very intensive,” said Kaitie Chakoian-Lifvergren, volunteer coordinator for WISE. But while the training may seem intimidating, what can be learned, the connections that can be made, and most important, the people who can be helped, are well worth it.

“The training was a really incredible experience,” said Griffin, who has been volunteering for about eight months. She added that the group she trained with became close. “That continued to be a huge support for me.”

Crisis line volunteers typically work two 24-hour shifts a month. Volunteers are given a pager and must stay within a roughly 30-minute proximity to the Upper Valley when they are on call. In addition to answering calls, volunteers may have to go to police stations or medical facilities to meet with survivors of gender-based violence.

“We as advocates don’t necessarily have answers or help, but rather can help create space and ask questions and believe people,” said Chakoian-Lifvergren.

Those interested in being a crisis line volunteer advocate must be over 18, apply to the program, undergo a background check and, once accepted, sign a confidentiality agreement. They are also asked to commit to a minimum of a year on the crisis line.

“The biggest thing is we’re looking for people who can really embrace the empowerment model of advocacy,” said Chakoian-Lifvergren. That includes “understanding that every person is an expert in his or her own life.”

Griffin said her volunteer work has helped make her a better doctor.

“I think every time I’m on call I also become a better advocate,” she said. “I feel like it’s one of those communities that you’re always part of.”

Editor’s note: Wise is also looking for volunteers to be court observers, community ambassadors and survivor group facilitators. Those interested in becoming a crisis line volunteer advocate, or other volunteer opportunities, can visit www.wiseuv.org, email kaitie.chakoian-lifvergren@wiseoftheuppervalley.org or call 603-448-5922. Liz Sauchelli can be reached at esauchelli@vnews.com or 603-727-3221.