"The 2020 Pride with Superdrug made such a difference at Switchboard over the last year, not only highlighting our helpline details but also the work of our volunteers. A truly invaluable partnership that has supported us financially but more importantly enabled us to raise even more awareness of our helpline services so that those most in need know they have someone to turn to"
Natasha Walker, Switchboard Co-Chair
After the success of last year's partnership, Lynx, Closeup, Simple, Vaseline, and Superdrug have partnered up with Switchboard LGBT Helpline, who offer vital support for the LGBTQ+ community by providing a safe space to talk to other members of the community. There are 5 Superdrug exclusive packs that hero the Switchboard logo and number on the front of the pack that can be purchased in-store and online to help the cause.
We hear from Switchboard’s Co-Chair Tash Walker about the fantastic work and the help Switchboard offers to the LGBTQ+ community.
This is the second year you have partnered with Lynx, Simple, Close up, Vaseline and Superdrug – what were your highlights from year one? What are you looking forward to seeing in 2021?
The sheer visibility that year two of the partnership was amazing; we really rely on getting our number into locations that may not usually be seen. Working with Superdrug has meant we've been able to make our number to people all over the UK; this is important as so many of our calls come from outside of the obvious big-city communities. In more rural areas, people often feel more isolated, and the partnership has helped us connect with those people, and we look forward to continuing this in 2021.
With 2020 being a difficult year, are there any key learnings you would like to share?
So many things, but I think the standout learning is how resilient and committed our wonderful volunteers are. We have over 200 volunteers that enable us to provide the Switchboard service, and despite the logistical challenges of the pandemic, our volunteers turned up (online). They understood that when everyone was being told to 'stay home, stay safe', home is often not a safe space for many in our community.
Pandemics don't stop people from coming out, and the circumstances of the last year have deepened what for many of our callers were already challenging circumstances. However, our volunteers were there time and time again to take the calls from those that really needed us.
How did the pandemic affect Switchboard services?
The biggest challenge in terms of delivery of the service was pivoting overnight from a physical phone room to a remote online service, but thanks to our incredible support volunteers and staff, we were able to do this and without interrupting our service.
When looking at your question in terms of calls, the impact has been massive, in 2020, we had over 18,000 conversations across our platforms phone, instant messenger and email. In particular, we witnessed spikes in conversations around the national lockdowns, with calls around loneliness and isolation, mental health and gender identity being significant themes, along with coming outcalls.
How long have you worked for Switchboard?
I started volunteering for Switchboard about eight years ago when I joined as a Listening Volunteer, answering calls, instant messages and emails. I then became more involved in the Media & Brand Team, which works on press, advertising, campaigns and partnerships. After that, I was elected to the Board as a Trustee for four years, working on our rebrand and national campaigns before being appointed Co-Chair by the membership just under two years ago!
Tell us about supporting the LGBTQ+ community?
Switchboard started back in 1974 and has been supporting the LGBTQ+ communities ever since. Whether it's helping someone understand their gender identity or listening and supporting those who have felt excluded by friends and family because of their sexuality, Switchboard is there. Everyone that is a Listening Volunteer at Switchboard self-identifies as LGTBQ+, so we really are from the community for the community - working together to create and provide a safe space where people feel listened to and support, but most importantly, where they know they are not alone.
What’s the best part of your job?
The best part of being a volunteer at Switchboard is when you hear how we've helped someone as an organisation, hearing that you've made a difference in some way to that person's life. That's what it's all about at Switchboard, being there for those who need us most.
What’s your most memorable moment at work?
There have been lots of memorable moments in my time at Switchboard, from the heartbreaking calls I have taken on the helpline to receiving a Gay Times award on behalf of the charity - but some of my favourite moments are marching with Switchboard at Pride, hearing people in the crowd call out and cheer for the charity is such a wonderful experience.
What does the LGBTQ+ community mean to you?
The LGBTQ+ communities mean so much to me; it's where I first felt truly accepted. It's impossible to explain the feeling of talking to people who know exactly how you feel, of course, we all have our own experiences as a truly intersectional community, but we all had to 'come out' one way or another. I'm so proud to be a part of the LGBTQ+ communities, and through the work we do at Switchboard, I went to help others feel that same sense of pride too.
Tell us about your partnership with Lynx, Closeup, Simple, Vaseline & Superdrug
We are so grateful to Lynx, Closeup, Simple, Vaseline and Superdrug for choosing Switchboard to benefit from their Take Pride In You campaign. This partnership raises vital funds for the charity, allowing us to keep answering the phones and raising significant awareness. Seeing Switchboard's name and number on the different product packs raises vital awareness so that those in need know they are not alone and there is someone they can talk to. Something we would honestly never be able to achieve on our own.
What are your top tips for supporting the LGBTQ+ community?
There are many ways to support the LGBTQ+ communities, from donating to charities, listening, and learning about the full spectrum of the LGTBQ+ acronym, using someone's correct pronouns and learning about LGBTQ+ history. We actually have a podcast called The Log Books, which is about the calls we have taken over our years. The first season focused on 1974 to 1982 - untold LGBTQ+ stories from those who lived through those times. But most importantly of all, standing up for and with everyone in the LGBTQ+ communities and showing that you believe we have an equal place with equal rights in society.