Charity Spotlight: This blog post was provided by Tanya Neumeyer, Fundraising Coordinator at Lesbian Gay Bi Trans Youth Line, as part of our ongoing charity spotlight series.
When youth head back to school this September, they may wonder about what to wear, where they will sit at lunch, or what clubs to join this year. Some youth look forward to seeing old friends, while some are nervous about making new friends or seeing last year’s bully.
For LGBTQ2S youth, heading back to school is a complex experience. They not only have to figure out what is expected of them this year and how to succeed in their new classes, they are also navigating challenging dynamics with peers and teachers. Imagine needing to coach your teachers on your preferred name and pronouns—a name that may be different from what’s on your teacher’s paperwork. They’re bound to feel nervous and anxious, but as LGBTQ2S youth head back to school this month, the LGBT Youth Line is here to support them.
When LGBT youth call, text, or chat online with Youth Line, they’re connecting with another LGBTQ2S young person who is able to support them as they share their experiences with our volunteers who are trained to listen. We provide an affirmative peer support service that is confidential and free from judgement. We don’t tell youth what to do. Rather, we listen to their concerns and help them navigate their teenage years by providing support, active listening, information, comfort, referrals and affirmation.
In 1999, 17-year-old Valerie called us to ask for advice about getting through some hard times. The Youth Line volunteers cheered her on and helped her face these difficulties.
“I saw this sticker on the pay phones at the subway station near school,” said Valerie. “It had Youth Line’s number and hours. For a few weeks I would walk to the pay phones on a street near my house after dinner with the dog, call, wait for someone to pick up, and hang up! One day, the voice on the other end of the line sounded especially kind, and so I talked. I honestly can’t remember any of the context of what I said, but it wasn’t the “problem” I called about that mattered. It was that volunteer’s kind, steady voice. They sounded steady, fun, and relatable, almost like someone I could be friends with, and I didn’t feel judged.”
Today, Valerie’s a successful non-profit fundraiser who’s supportive of Youth Line’s work and grateful we’re still here to support LGBTQ2S youth. LGBT Youth Line have been offering this kind of peer support for more than 23 years, and it’s essential that youth have someone to reach out to when they need it the most.
Like Valerie experienced, LGBT Youth Line provides life-changing support for LGBTQ2S youth across Ontario. Our volunteers spend hundreds of hours on the lines each year, supporting young people in moments of questioning, difficulty, abandonment, loneliness, and uncertainty. Our volunteers are youth age 26 and under who take time out of their busy school and work schedules to give their valuable time to Youth Line and make a positive impact in the lives of their LGBTQ2S peers. Our youth volunteers are online and on the phone 6 days a week, 33 hours a week. That is over 1,720 hours of service a year by youth, for youth. They are happy to work with us because they remember a time when they needed help and someone supported them. They give back and do so very generously, but the demand for our services keeps growing.
One of our current volunteers will tell you: “I love volunteering at LGBT Youth Line. I love spending time with fellow volunteers, and having access to a supportive, knowledgeable group of LGBTQ2S peers. I love taking calls and chats from LGBTQ2S youth, and being able to make a difference in their lives. I also love being able to support other volunteers, and learn from each other how to better help callers.”
This Pride season, we’ve reached out to the community with province-wide outreach to get the word out about our services. We want LGBTQ2S youth to know who to call when they’re heading back to school and they are faced with challenges. If you or someone you know could use our services, we’re here to listen when they call: 1-800-268-9688 (toll-free over the phone) or 647-694-4275 (text). Youth seeking support can also chat with our team online via www.youthline.ca.
We believe that youth can and do make the world better, and we’re here to help them do it.