GibSams has set out to double its number of volunteers to 100 this year as the charity plans to extend its helpline hours and launch a ‘chat’ message service.
This is part of the charity’s ambitious plans over the forthcoming year, which also includes further work on their ‘chatty café’ scheme for those feeling lonely and more outreach.
Currently GibSams has 45 listeners volunteering on its freephone helpline service which runs seven days a week.
The helpline that runs from 4pm to midnight has set out to extend its hours to 9am to midnight this year.
Founder and Chair of GibSams Marielou Guerrero told the Chronicle the charity needs around 100 volunteers for the helpline, chat service, the chatty café and its outreach programme.
With the extra day-time shifts it is thought that the charity would need at least 70 listeners working on a rota with further volunteers manning the chat service daily.
When GibSams first launched in late 2017 the charity received around one or two phone calls a week, now they receive two to three phone calls a day.
The charity are there to listen to anyone about any problems. These issues can range from emotional distress and depression to loneliness, bullying, or the breakdown of a relationship.
“Now people are ringing about their problems, we haven’t had any hoax calls, but we do get silent calls,” Ms Guerrero said.
“The silent calls are usually someone who is plucking up the courage to talk.”
“Once people get used to the fact there is a helpline there that they can call when they need to it will get easier. It has been difficult for people to understand that we are there for anything that they need.”
The charity plans to carrying out three more training courses throughout this year for incoming helpline and chat volunteers.
Not all volunteers with GibSams are listeners as volunteers are also needed for fundraising and outreach.
The Chatty café scheme is aimed at those feeling lonely wanting to chat in person has gathered support from 32 restaurants and cafes.
GibSams will be working with the Gibraltar Senior Citizens Association to combat loneliness amongst the elderly through the Chatty café.
“For a one year old charity it has been quite successful, way beyond my expectations but it has been the support that we have received that has enabled us to do this,” Mr Guerrero said.
She added part of the work of GibSams has been “getting rid of the stigma” of emotional distress and how its “ok not to be ok”.
Other plans include for the charity to host an art exhibition and writing competition based on ‘feelings and emotions’.
See more on GibSams upcoming plans in our print and e-edition.