A Toll-Free Help-Line to Alleviate Loneliness
Project location: ITALY
Project start date: June 2003 - Project end date: This project covers various years
Project number: 2003-06
Beneficiary: Associazione Messaggeri della Pace
The Association "Messaggeri della Pace" is operating in Italy since 1998 with a special attention to the aged persons through the "Telefono Dorato", a telephonic free service meant for people who feel lonely and need comfort or just a friendly voice.
The work of the association is based above all on the efforts and dedication of its volunteers. Currently 10 volunteers take turns from Monday to Friday.
The shifts are arranged from week to week depending on the commitments of each one.
The selection of volunteers occurs by word of mouth. Applications are evaluated by the board of the Association through an interview aimed at assessing the proper characteristics of sensitivity and empathy necessary to accomplish such a delicate task.
In recent years the efforts of the Association were focused to improve and expand its activities especially those concerning the call center service.
Through the "golden telephone" "Messageri della Pace" aims to offer support and care to its users and in order to maintain and implement the standards of quality it had to start by increasing the telephonic lines.
The old telephone switchboard caused a considering period of serious trouble that slowed communications with its users. To avoid this gap of communications and to not make them feel abandoned during that period the association provided to its volunteers phone recharge cards for their mobiles to keep alive our activity, to stay in touch and support them anyway.
Following several attempts to repair the old telephone switchboard it has been decided to replace it with a new one, capable of supporting the constantly increasing traffic. This operation took several technical support interventions.
Thanks to this upgrading it was possible to add a new line for the internet connection, evermore in the view to facilitating the internal management of the work of volunteers.
The call center service is completely in charge of the association through a green number.
Over the years the Association tried to expand its assistance not just waiting for phone calls but also creating a close relationship based on trust and continuity with the users by calling them to make them feel a constant presence full of care and affection.
The number of incoming calls is in constant growth, and this result represents an outstanding awards and a great satisfaction to the Association. By all means this has also resulted in a significant increase in telephone bills which are the priority and more substantial spending to sustain.
The daily average number of incoming calls is 21 (as follows):
- 79% by mobile
- 18% by private telephony
- 3% by public telephony
The average call duration is 6:51 minutes
The daily average number of outgoing calls is 23 (as follows):
- 43,5% local calls
- 23,6% long-distance calls
- 16,4% to mobiles
The average call duration is 5:22 minutes
The goal of Messaggeri della Pace over the years has been to became a reference point in which people may count, where they can address in case of running out their basic needs, not just a companion to relieve loneliness nor a listening center for their fears.
In this time of outstanding crisis, interacting with users, it came clear how often it is difficult for them to meet even basic needs like food, clothing, etc..
The association decided to meet their specific needs and handling some requests by providing supplies such as a blanket, a stove or by paying an expiring electricity bill.
Furthermore, periodically, thanks to the loving support of the Sisters of the Cross, the association has distributed home parcels containing basic food goods.
With the aim to maintain close and constant the relationship with the assisted "Messaggeri della Pace" has widen its activity with moments of meeting such as those arranged the days before Christmas that takes place with a lunch preceded by a Mass followed by the delivery of gifts offered by members of the Board involved in the meeting.
Usually the number of participants is between 50 and 60 people.
On this occasion the association provides the accompaniment of the clients by renting mini vans.
July 2010 Report
Thanks to the support of the Nando Peretti Foundation a technical restructuring of the switchboard was carried out. This has allowed a greater flow of telephone calls without the obstacle of calls on hold, which is in line with the simplified procedure that has always characterized the natural human contact between the Association and the beneficiaries. Coupled with a growing commitment of the volunteers who devote themselves with passion and attention to the most needy, the number of calls, both incoming and outgoing, has greatly increased and the number of beneficiaries is growing day by day.
The restructuring has also made it possible to streamline the collection of data on beneficiaries. For each of them an electronic profile was created, containing personal data, special needs (if any) and any other pertinent information to facilitate the work of assistance. The data are continually updated and revised, and this procedure greatly facilitates the work of volunteers. In this way they can work better on topics and issues previously addressed by others.
This procedure creates an important continuity for beneficiaries, who, regardless of who answers the phone, feel at ease and do not have to re-explain their situation all over again each time they call. In this way even new beneficiaries become immediately part of the family. The volunteers do not limit their activities to listening and provide a friendly voice, but thanks to their support they are becoming a place to turn to and trust in difficult times. In fact, every phone operator takes care of nurturing the relationship with the new contacts. The do not just wait for calls, they can also actively contact beneficiaries directly.
The Scientific Committee of the Association, which includes renowned physicians and psychologists, plays an important role in the projects. In some cases, a friendly voice is not enough therefore for a more complete and specific assistance, volunteers bring the most complex cases to the attention of the scientific committee, which gives an assessment or, where appropriate, makes a direct intervention. In addition, the Scientific Committee provides volunteers important tips on how to with each case.