“The most important thing that you can give, is to listen.”

Duncan, Rapha Listening volunteer

Bethel Health and Healing Network’s Rapha Service supports people suffering low-level mental health problems. Through Rapha, they can have someone local to talk to in confidence about whatever is on their minds.   

62-year-old businessman, Duncan, became a volunteer listener with the service in May 2021. This Volunteer’s Week (1-7 June 2021) we caught up with him to find out more about his experience as a volunteer with Bethel Health and Healing Network.    

What motivated you to become a volunteer listener?  

One of my interests is the wellbeing of men; we have such a problem sharing how we feel! I had run men’s groups in the past and had been considering volunteering when I was approached by Bethel Network’s CEO Madge Milligan-Green who was looking for more men to come forward as volunteers for the service and that was the nudge I needed.   

What is a typical client like?  

There are no typical clients! You get to talk to a diverse bunch of people. I’ve had one man who has lost several close family members in a short space of time. Another is a recovered drug addict and really wants to move on with his life and give something back to society.  

How long does a listening session last?  

Right from the outset, I make it clear that they’re the most important person for the next 45 mins. I commend them for what they are doing but I’m not here to counsel them. Then, I let them talk about what they want to talk about.  

Does listening to people’s problems take a toll on you?  

No! Listening is the easiest things you can do, it’s not taxing.  Once a month we have a session where we meet with the senior Rapha Listeners at Bethel to talk about what we’ve done and where we’re at. You can also request a one to one at any time.   

How much time do volunteers have to give?  

As part of the training for this role, I went on a two-day listening course and it was one of the best things I ever did. I thought I was a great listener, but I realised you’re just hearing what you want to hear. With the training, you really learn how to concentrate when people are talking to you and hearing everything they are saying. The listening course was followed by a 2hr safeguarding course. So yes, there’s a bit of time invested upfront and you need to have a DBS checked. Once all that’s done, they ask for 3 to 5 hours a week.    

What makes an ideal listener?  

You need to be someone who wants to help and support. Of course, being non-judgemental is a must.   

How would you describe your experience so far?  

They are desperate for more men to volunteer their time so I feel honoured to be a part of it. If you have the time and you want to make a difference to men’s wellbeing, I would really recommend it. The skills you learn will improve your personal relationships too, so it’s a worthwhile investment on multiple levels.  Ultimately, the most important thing is the clients. They are human beings who need your help, and right now you can give them the most basic thing anyone can give and that’s to listen.   

If Duncan has inspired you to think about volunteering as a Rapha Listening volunteer, you can find out more on our Support Us pages.