Broken, she begged Childline to save her. Volunteer Colin came to her rescue. Now YOU can help too...
ensure it can train its counsellors to meet the demand. Now the Sunday Mirror is teaming up with the charity for its Light Up Christmas for Children Campaign in a bid to do just that. For just £4, you could help ensure a counsellor is there for a child just like that little girl – and £20 could fund an entire counselling session for a desperate young person. In 2017, their services are needed more than ever. In the last year, Childline counsellors have spoken to 22,000 children on the edge of suicide. When it comes to how many times Colin has had to call 999, he says he lost count at 40.
Esther, 77, says what is always on both of their minds: “What if the fourth child, that child who can’t get through, is a suicide call?”
Colin has taken 15,000 calls over three decades – the voices are burned into in his memory.
He says: “One teenage girl 10 years ago spoke to me for about 20 minutes about all kinds of trivial things. I did what I always do – I listened.
“Then she said, ‘I took some pills about half an hour ago’.”
He begged her to tell him where she was so he could call an ambulance. She panicked as her mum came home, saying: “I have to go.” But Colin managed to stop her hanging up and got her to put her mum on the phone.
“She began screaming and crying, asking her what she’d done, but I stayed on the phone and got her to call an ambulance,” says Colin. “There would be time to talk about what was on her mind later, but they had to deal with what was in her stomach.”
At all hours, Childline staff and volunteers at the hotline’s 12 UK bases are dealing with equally harrowing calls. Grandad Colin, of Malvern, Worcs, works at the Birmingham centre. He’s trudged through snow and hail to be there because he knows the difference just one conversation with a child can make. As a secondary school deputy head, he encountered several children who’d experienced physical and sexual abuse and was tortured by thoughts of what could have happened if he’d known about their plight earlier.
Esther talks of the initial reaction to Childline. Donations flooded in from all over the country, including a personal gift from Princess Diana. One penniless widow gave the charity all she had – her gold wedding ring.
As it grew in popularity, Childline struggled to answer of all its calls – with some children phoning repeatedly. One 11-year-old boy, overwhelmed with shame, would speak only to Colin – taking several calls before revealing he was being abused by his dad.
And the growth of social media has given Childline a new set of problems. Esther admits she is still haunted by a