Rotary Club of Belfast

The Silver Line Charity Lunch

04.IMG 0481.202.IMG 0557President Rosemary welcomed all especially Guest Speaker Dame Esther Rantzen, The Silver Line CEO Sophie Andrews OBE and District Governor Roland Bailie to the special Fundraising Lunch which was attended by over 140.

In a highly entertaining and frequently anecdotal address Dame Esther detailed how The Silver Line began, its importance and how it operates.

09.IMG 0542Reflecting on the success of Childline, which has been going since 1986, and how delighted she was that there is now a Childline base in Belfast, Dame Esther revealed how lonely she felt after her husband Desmond Wilcox died and felt that the older generation are not valued or recognised for all the good work many do. Having written a newspaper article describing her feelings as a widow living alone for the first time at the age of 71, she received an anonymous letter describing she felt like a “waste of space”. She stressed loneliness corrodes confidence and is damaging to health personally and mentally and she had felt that she wanted to do something about it. So, in a “lightbulb moment”, she decided to set up a helpline.

16.IMG 0550.2Having obtained seed money from Comic Relief Sophie Andrews was employed and a pilot was launched in November 2012. Dame Esther advised that they instantly found it was providing a vital service to those who rang finding for example some callers just wanted someone to say good night to and to some Silver Line were the only person spoken to all through Christmas and the New Year. Following an evaluation they succeeded in obtaining 5 year funding from the Business Lottery and The Silver Line was launched before Christmas 2013. She pointed out that over 1.7m calls have been taken since then and they expect to take their 2 millionth call this summer.

She noted that the helpline is based in Blackpool, operated 24/7 but they also have over 4,000 trained volunteers (68 in NI) who make weekly friendship calls from their own houses and played the video showing the impact Silver Line makes. She suggested that “you may know somebody who could do with someone ringing them up” and asked if anyone would be interested in volunteering to make calls from home.    

17.IMG 0546She answered several questions from the floor and concluded expressing how grateful she was to the Club helping her to spread awareness especially in NI and reflected that she has found that the public have responded very differently to Child Line and it was not easy to fundraise for this sector of the Community. Noting that the Lottery grant was coming to an end she emphasised their need for money.

22.IMG 0561.2President Rosemary thanked Dame Esther for her interesting, moving and informative talk noting that as a counsellor she knows how loneliness affects older people and that the helpline was a “godsend”, a very important new facility and thanked her for starting it.

Thanking all for coming and so generously supporting Silver Line and other Club charities ShelterBox, Youth Action, Kids Out day for Mitchell House and Polio Plus President Rosemary highlighted the upcoming Charity Golf Day on May 22, asked Dame Esther to draw the Ballot prizes and presented her with a cheque for £2,500.


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