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McGill take note: Tel-Aide needs your help! Since 1971, Tel-Aide has been helping both English and French Montrealers immeasurably by offering a kind and sympathetic ear to the plights and voices of the distressed. The service, mostly funded by the generous donations of individuals and corporations, is completely free of charge, and caters to those who are in need of nothing more complicated than someone to do that most gracious of things: listen.
At Tel-Aide "you're listening to somebody you will never meet, but you are helping them a great deal," says Elizabeth Martin, a McGill library employee and graduate of McGill's Special Bachelor of Social Work. She devotes her free time to the admirable cause. To take part, says Martin, is "to help another person through their difficult life." Listening, the lesson seems to be, is nothing short of heroism.
These days, though, the venerable Montreal institution faces a unique problem. After years of having trouble recruiting an adequate number of French-speaking volunteers to man their phone lines, they are currently experiencing a dramatic shortage of Anglos. According to Alain Gagnon, a member of the Board of Directors, "We are desperately looking for [English-speaking] listeners. The situation has become critical. Something big and good really must happen soon if Tel-Aide is to continue offering its services in English."
Quizzically languishing in relative obscurity, Tel-Aide is the oldest help line currently operating in Montreal, and also the only one with 24/7 availability. A humanitarian venture, the service promises an attentive ear with no strings attached. Martin, a Tel-Aide volunteer for the past eight years, is a fervent believer in the value of the service and its far-reaching capacities. "We're all a little bit judgmental," she says. Being a volunteer listener at Tel-Aide "teaches you to not to be judgmental, because this is what people are living. Are experiencing."
The human condition is fraught with obstacles and other bumps along the road. When the squeaky wheel needs grease, that's where altruism and philanthropy take top billing. A Tel-Aide training session is a ten-week process (recommencing in late March) which teaches would-be volunteers how to listen without commenting, to receive without judgment or backtalk. Being a Tel-Aide volunteer listener can make an incalculable difference in the life of someone in need of help, so please give freely.