Worcester Warriors' star Sam Tuitupou recently visited ChildLine Birmingham to help launch Anti Bullying Week (November 16-20) and hear how the service helps young bullying victims who phone for advice.
Sam met members of staff and heard about the ChildLine in Partnerships (CHIPS) initiatives which include work to prevent bullying by setting up peer support networks in schools and other organisations.
The visit comes as Tuitupou and other Guinness Premiership players launch the second year of the Kicking Bullying Into Touch programme which was devised in conjunction with ChildLine and involves Premiership coaches going into schools to help tackle bullying.
Last year the programme helped 17,256 six to eleven-year-olds in 360 schools, including 2,259 Worcestershire children in 30 schools across the county. Of 126 children surveyed following the sessions, 97 per cent said they had a better understanding of different forms of bullying and 72 per cent said they felt more able to talk to someone if they were being bullied or knew someone that was. Nearly 70 per cent said there was less bullying within their class.
This year, coaches and players will be reaching even more children by visiting 420 schools and Kicking Bullying Into Touch taster sessions will be held for the first time at 13 junior clubs, including one in Worcester. A peer mentoring project will be set up at the club that will involve the recruitment and training of peer mentors for five age groups from 10 to 14.
During his visit ex-All Black Sam learnt how CHIPS tackles bullying, as well as getting the chance to speak to volunteer counsellors from ChildLine who take calls from children and young people. The base takes calls from across the West Midlands and beyond, including Worcester, and received 5,571 calls about bullying last year.
Tuitupou said: "ChildLine is such an invaluable service for young people who need help and advice, including if they are being bullied.
"Rugby is a game that is built on the values of trust and respect so it fits well with teaching children about bullying. Through the Kicking Bullying Into Touch sessions in schools children learn what to do if they or a friend is being bullied and understand it is wrong to bully others."
Young people can continue to call ChildLine on 0800 1111, but they can now also receive information and support via the website - www.childline.org.uk - and talk to counsellors through email, online message boards or one-to-one chats. The development is part of the Child's Voice Appeal which aims to answer every child's cry for help through increasing the number of volunteer counsellors and by giving children more choice about how they contact ChildLine.
Fundraisers in the West Midlands need to raise £4.2 million over the next three years to help expand ChildLine Birmingham, as well as the NSPCC Helpline for adults with a concern about a child. To express an interest in fundraising locally for the NSPCC people can call 0844 892 0217.
Volunteers needed for vital ChildLine service
For many children with a problem, ChildLine is the only place they feel they can turn. The free, 24-hour helpline received over 700,000 calls last year and offers confidential help and advice about a wide range of issues from bullying to sexual abuse.
There are14 bases including one in Birmingham which takes calls from children and young people from across the West Midlands, including Worcestershire.
ChildLine recently announced a new development which means that people can now receive support through email, message boards or one-to-one chats with counsellors via the website - www.childline.org.uk
The service relies heavily on volunteers to operate the switchboards, take calls and talk to children online. The Birmingham base has 164 volunteer counsellors but up to 70 more are needed to allow them to answer more contacts. Currently a third of children who call for help are unable to get through due to lack of recourses.
ChildLine Birmingham has a shortage of male counsellors so the base is especially interested in hearing from men who want to volunteer.
Volunteer co-ordinator Kuljinder Nahal said: "ChildLine wouldn't be able to exist without its volunteers as their role is absolutely invaluable. They are the first point of contact for many children who need someone to talk to so they can literally be a lifeline.
"If a child plucks up the courage to call or contact us via the website and they can't get through to speak to anyone then they can feel even more alone and isolated so we desperately need more volunteer counsellors to be able to speak to more children.
"We take calls from children from all ethnic backgrounds so we think it's important that the people we have answering the calls reflects this.
"We also take a lot of calls from boys but we have a shortage of male volunteers so more are needed so the callers can speak to another male if they feel more comfortable doing this.
"People don't need to have a wealth of experience but they need to be open-minded, non-judgemental and respectful, as well as genuinely caring about children and young people.
"We can now accept volunteers from the age of 16 so younger people can express their interest too.
"We struggle for people to fill the Friday and Saturday evening shifts so we would be interested in hearing from anyone who could fill either of those timeslots. We also need people who can work afternoons, 3pm-6pm shifts or late nights.
"We offer 46 hours of counselling training to people before they commence volunteering on the helpline for a minimum of 12 months, doing a weekly shift."
For more information about becoming a volunteer counsellor at ChildLine Birmingham please call Kuljinder Nahal on 0870 336 2915 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
One family of Warriors are so committed to the cause they have cut their half-term holiday short in order to attend Wednesday's Greene King IPA Championship Final second leg between Warriors and Bristol.