Meet the National Runaway Safeline’s (NRS) February 2018, volunteer of the month, Leslie Sinclair, and learn why she chooses to serve youth in crisis at NRS.

Youth Crisis Volunteer of the Month | Leila Sinclair | February 2018Tell us a fun fact about yourself. I’m a senior in high school, so I’m around the age of a lot of the youth we serve. Calls can get pretty surreal, knowing that the caller almost always assumes I’m much older than I am.

Every time I get a call from someone who feels isolated, I have to fight my instinct to help them as a potential friend instead of a liner.

Also, I love writing and reading (I can, and have, talked about Toni Morrison, Tim O’Brien, Flannery O’Connor, and Virginia Woolf for hours), and I’m always up for discussing books!

How did you first get involved with NRS? I found NRS in a volunteer listing a few years ago and was amazed at the idea that someone as young as sixteen could help fellow youth through the crisis. At that point, I wasn’t sixteen yet, but I kept NRS in the back of my head and last summer I finally was able to complete the training. And I’m so glad I did!

Why do you choose to keep coming back to work as a youth crisis volunteer? 

Every single person in crisis who calls NRS has such resilience and hope. I am continually amazed by the people I get the chance to talk to. This opportunity to be there for people who are seeking ways to improve their situations is invaluable, and the crisis services center is such a welcoming environment that I look forward to every shift.

What have you gained from your experience? I used to be terrified of speaking on the phone to anyone, even people I knew well. Volunteering here has been a weekly reminder that it is sometimes possible to work through irrational fears. In some cases, I can even use the hyper-awareness that I’ve gained from that fear to my advantage while on the lines.

Can you tell us about a call that stuck with you?  I’ll never forget a call I took last August that Youth Crisis Volunteer Leila Sinclair | February 2018started in silence and then a quiet admission that he’d called a few times by then, only to hang up.

At first, he barely felt comfortable speaking at all, but after a few minutes he began to tell me everything, all of the bottled-up thoughts and struggles that he had felt too guilty and isolated to voice out loud. We ended up talking for almost an hour, and before we hung up he was the one who said that he would call back if he ever needed to.

Time didn’t feel like it was passing during that call, and I’ll always remember how powerful it was to just be there to listen in that moment.

Any last thoughts? After calls where there was no good solution and you may not feel like you were able to help or said the right thing, it’s important to remember that just being here at all, that providing a place where someone can reach out if they need to, helps in and of itself.

If you are in the Chicago area and interested in becoming a youth crisis services volunteer at NRS, email Jamin Draves at JDraves@1800RUNAWAY.org.

 

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