In cooperation with a regional volunteer centre, we launched the Ears to the Soul programme – a telephone helpline for lonely people. The programme took the form of “one-on-one”. Volunteer-lonely person pairs were created, which guaranteed an individual approach, better mutual knowledge and consideration of the person in need. The volunteer regularly telephoned a specific person (three times a week). We offered students of social work the opportunity to complete the programme as a substitute for completing professional internship, which they could not complete during the summer semester. The educational goal of the programme in relation to the students was the development of communication competencies with the client, empathy and personal and social responsibility. These competencies represent one of the basic competencies defined in the profile of a social work graduate.
The actual launch of the programme was preceded by a preparatory phase during which teachers from the university prepared a manual for program coordination in cooperation with the regional volunteer centre, in which they defined the individual steps of programme management and roles and responsibilities of those involved, its manual for volunteers – students, training for the programme and the necessary documentation and contracts. The tasks of the university were aimed at the students – volunteers and the tasks of the volunteer centre towards clients and the promotion of the programme among the target group.
Within the implementation phase, the work with students was based on the individual steps of the management of volunteer programmes. After the recruitment, students were selected for the programme on the basis of a completed registration form and an introductory interview. After completing the interview, they participated in online training. The training was focused on the introduction of the main rules of operation of the volunteer programme and individual positions in the programme (student, client, tutor, supervisor, university, volunteer centre) and clarification of the rights and obligations of individual parties. The training space was also devoted to the specifics of the target groups of the programme and communication with this type of clients and problematic communication situations and their management. A manual was prepared for students, which contained a summary of information from the training. After completing the training, client-student pairs were gradually created. The main task of the students was to be in telephone contact with a lonely person, optimally 3 times a week, while the contact was always initiated by the student. Each week, students filled out a record of the calls they made. These also included a brief reflection and evaluation of contacts with clients. Each student was assigned a tutor, who was a teacher from the Department of Social Work. The tutor was in regular contact with the students and provided consultations if necessary. The meetings with tutor also served to reflect on the process of developing or deepening communication skills. The programme also included mandatory group supervision aimed at reflecting on the experience of the relationship with the client and problematic situations. Working in the programme was set for a period of 3 months from the training.
In the final phase of the programme, students attended the last online supervisory group meeting. Their task was also to end the cooperation with the clients, to fill in the written final self-reflection and the evaluation questionnaire. Evaluation interviews were also conducted with clients after the end of the cooperation.