Volunteer’s of the Month – *August* – Gwen and Luyolo

Gwen from Maryland, USA

Gwen began her volunteer tenure at IMAlive in August of 2017, coming to us as a self-described “patient listener” who “allows people to express everything they need to.” In that open-hearted endeavor to give people in crisis the space to truly be heard as they seek safety from suicide and support through their crisis, she has shared 800 hours of time, her bottomless well of empathy, and an ever optimistic attitude to touch many lives with a measure of hope during their most painful hour. Gwen’s strength as a crisis responder stems from her understanding of herself as “very perceptive” and possessing a natural ability to “quickly analyze and pinpoint core issues during a moment of crisis in order to begin the process of working towards the best solution.” This description may sound overtly analytical, however it is merely the stalk upon which Gwen’s empathy toward others blossoms. Identifying and encouraging a person to speak about those issues most contributing to their pain, gaining understanding and reflecting perspective while highlighting those shimmers of hope she hears in what they are saying and their situation, lets Gwen and the person she is connected to naturally come to a place where the focus shifts from their pain to how to safely help them survive what is happening. Supervisors agree Gwen absolutely shines during shifts. Each chat in which she is a part is played to the chest, but once it’s over her perspective is bright and positive, always looking forward to the future and the next person she can help. Over and over supervisors observe that sunny disposition shed light in the darkest of crises and assist the person toward embracing the resilience and hope they have within their reach. Gwen, we are so very glad the flower of you and all you have to offer has come to bloom here with IMAlive, and are happy to honor you as a Volunteer of the Month!

Luyolo from South Africa

With the kindness to “offer my time and compassion” in the service of helping others who face life’s challenges, in search only of “the satisfaction of being part of something worthwhile and possibly contributing to someone’s life,” Luyolo joined our team in December of 2020. During the application process for becoming a certified crisis responder, asked of her interest in pursing what can be difficult and challenging position, Luyolo explained that: “A friend says I ‘have a way of looking at things’ and ‘the gift of listening and advising based on who the other person is and their situation rather than expecting them to do what I would do in their situation.’” In saying so, and with simple eloquence, she hit upon the very heart of what it is to be a crisis responder. Supervisors agree the empathy integral to crisis work she embodies make her a joy and asset on shift. She shows a deep compassion and understanding of people and has a way of communicating that makes them feel heard but also highlights the hidden hopes and optimism in their situation and encourages them to look at their challenge(s) differently or to look at other options to overcome them. Luyolo’s determination often means her chats can go a little longer, with the extra time taken spent really thinking through and effectively wording responses in an effort tofind the smallest things that can make the start of a huge change in someone’s life, and to then express those details in a way that deepens the chatter’s connection to the process. Virtually standing in the shoes of the person in crisis, she sees past their pain to where a reachable goal can be found. Speaking of shoes, in downtime the topic of footwear is a favorite; although it might seem pretty far away from assisting another person to find their way in life, it’s not so far at all if you consider this: Walking your own path in life is so important and hard enough as it is, why not wear the right shoes for such a big occasion? With sincerest thanks for walking your path with IMAlive during this past year, we congratulate you on being a Volunteer of the Month, Luyolo!

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