Careline: Someone who cares is just a phone call away

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Regular listeners to Christian radio stations will be familiar with the work of Careline Connections who provide a phone helpline service across Australia. From Mount Gambier, to Newcastle, to Bendigo, to Melbourne to Sydney, Careline provides listener support to Australians from all walks of life.

“There’s a lot of loneliness and a lot of social disconnection,” observes Gary, a longtime Careline volunteer. Careline differentiates itself as being a Christian helpline which offers pastoral care as well as referrals to other organisations and counsellors.

Gary who started with Careline in 2006 is one of its longest serving supporters and volunteers, “There’s a group of us that started around the same time. My church was a call centre for Careline and it partnered with Bayside to provide a call centre and there were half a dozen people there and I managed that call centre for a number of years prior to CCA taking over.

“This was a way of putting my faith into action and actually reaching people, praying for people, connecting to people. It’s easy as a Christian to go along to church and predominantly the people you meet and speak to are all Christian. Whereas on the radio station through Careline you meet everybody across the country, there’s a wide range of people.”

“I like to say to volunteers, this is God’s careline and we’re just serving on God’s careline here,” shares Andrew Schram, the General Manager of Careline Connections. Careline was started by Bayside Church in 1999 and taken over by Christian Counsellors Association (CCA) in 2018 when Andrew become General Manager.

One of Careline’s most recent volunteers is Sam, who in his retirement undertook a counselling course at The Australian Institute of Family Counselling (AIFC) as a means to serve and help people.

“I started a course at AIFC and I finished as a counsellor and then I’ve heard about Careline,” Sam says, “I’ve always had a heart to help people and found this a great opportunity to get involved into communicating with people in need.

“I applied to Careline, I told them my background and they said come down. I’ve already done about four to five shifts and it’s amazing,” says Sam, noting the transforming power of providing a listening ear and prayer in bringing hope to someone’s day.

After 40 years of being an electrical contractor, Sam reflects on his life’s work and shares, “You come to the best at the end.”

“Careline is one of the best prayer lines to call, the people are good listeners and empathic, you can sense the love they have for the callers,” shares one Careline caller.

“All the times that I felt unloved and was hurting, Careline was there for me,” observes another caller.

And yet another, “Careline is a big blessing to me. I would not know where I would get support from if there was no Careline.”

Financially, Careline who have been operating on about $65,000 a year are aiming for $200,000 a year, which would allow them to provide for ongoing projects and undertake new projects such as buying handsets for more volunteers and getting a better online presence to reach younger generations.

Careline has about 70 helpline volunteers and generally have one volunteer on a shift that goes for three to four hours. With the phone line open from 9am to 11pm, each call lasts an average of 15 minutes, and each call is treated a unique call. Last year Careline received 40,000 callers, and so as not to miss anyone, they have a voicemail system which allows them to return calls on the day, except for private number callers.

“We regularly have volunteers reporting quite good experiences. Our volunteer on a call will share a relevant Bible passage. We have a whole book that makes it easy to find a number of Bible passages on a particular subject and so when they share Bible passages we believe they have great power and the Spirit works through the heart of the caller. And our volunteers have also felt the Spirit supporting them through this, I suppose, and it’s quite a spiritual experience,” says Andrew, adding, “We also then pray with every caller as best as we can, presuming they’re happy for us to pray with them.”

“On occasion, we will send something to the caller if they’re really distressed. We send blankets and we send Bibles if people want them,” Gary shares, explaining that another organisation who makes blankets contacted them to ask if they would be interested in donating them to their callers. The beautiful, soft and light blankets have a Bible verse stitched on to them.

Who can volunteer with Careline? “Our criteria is that the statement of faith they can accept is the Apostle’s Creed,” Andrew explains. New volunteers are sent telephones which they plug to their modem, log into the phone they’re live on the Careline and can start taking calls from callers around the country.

When Andrew took over as General Manager of Careline in 2018, he had many visions at the time of what Careline might become and some of those hopes are still unmet today. This year, Careline will have been in operation for 25 years and Andrew still sees the possibilities for God’s careline and remains faithful to this calling.

“We’ve got to do our work and then be obedient to God leading us and His timing,” Andrew concludes, “We have to be patient and just follow God’s lead.”

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