The essential support service for the community, Gay Switchboard, has relaunched as The Switchboard, and still provides a listening ear to those in need.
Over the years, the wonderful volunteers have been there for any callers who needed a chat, and now they’ve shared how they plan to help the community far into the future.
While their number has remained the same throughout the rebrand, (01-872 1055) their website has been updated to The Switchboard. They are not operating an instant chat/messaging service at this time, but hope to have it back in the future.
The team are open to anyone who needs to call every night, and will do their best to help, but they do have specialised topics for each nights that the volunteer will be more trained on. The list is viewable below.
Christopher from The Switchboard shared, “Although we are happy to take any calls on any day of the week, where it’s possible we encourage people to call on the dedicated night and you will find a volunteer with extra training or a background in that area willing to help however they can.”
Christopher continued with his own reasons for volunteering, “I joined Switchboard at a time when my personal life was difficult, as I always enjoyed helping others. I found in addition to being able to help others, it helped give me a sense of purpose and direction. Now I am delighted to be able to work on the board to help this organisation to keep doing its important work and to help it grow. And I hope that we can expand and grow and I invite new members to join us.”
Some of the other wonderful volunteers shared their stories also, with Gloria describing, “Just because the LGBT community has made great strides in recent years, it doesn’t mean we don’t have to continue to look out for people and groups who are erased and left behind. The rainbow is a wonderful thing with a myriad of individual lives and experiences on it. The Switchboard lives that philosophy and I am so happy to be part of it.”
Declan added, “When I was about 14, growing up in a small town in the west of Ireland, from feeling isolated and thinking I was the only gay in the village, I called the then Gay Galway helpline, it was so helpful to me, I wanted to give something thing back and 25 years later I joined Switchboard.”
Olive described how having a specialist volunteer on each of the nights was a huge bonus – “I’m a woman with an intersex condition. I am a volunteer and committee member with Switchboard. I think Switchboard is great as it gives specific nights to a range of different groups within the LGBTQIA community including trans and intersex.”
Ruairí spoke about another of the groups – “We run a peer support group for men who are or who were in a long term relationship with a woman, but who are now feeling gay/bi or experiencing sexual attractions to other men. The group members offer tremendous support to one other as they have all gone through the same situation, in what can be a very traumatic time in life. The group has no agenda, will not tell you what to do in your life, but simply offer a safe space to talk and receive support.”
For some of those volunteers, it has also been a learning experience, as Eoin shares – “Volunteering for The Switchboard has educated me about our community and about diversity, and also how in some ways we are still only in the early stages of achieving equality and inclusion for LGBTQIA people.”
John has made lifelong friends amongst the volunteers, as he describes, “I joined the Gay Switchboard six years ago as a volunteer – I wanted to give back to the LGBTQIA community the support I received when I first rang the service all those years ago. I made some amazing friends from the Personal Development Course that the Switchboard ran 10 years ago, and we are still in touch all these years later.”
Danielle had a particularly beautiful sentiment to share about her association with The Switchboard, describing, “I phoned when I was 17. It was the only ‘olive branch’ at the time. They listened. Now 23 years on, I’m the one who listens.”
If those stories have inspired you to get involved, Christopher explained how: “We are always looking for new volunteers. And we do our training over Zoom, so you don’t need to be in Dublin to join. We will be running training for new volunteers in July and if you feel you want to join, please let us know at [email protected]”
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