Last call for long-time Lifeline volunteer

02:35, May 27 2014
Olwyn Thomas
SYMPATHETIC EAR: Olwyn Thomas is hanging up the phone after 23 years with Lifeline Taranaki.

Thomas was the person people rang when they needed a listening ear.

The Lifeline Taranaki volunteer, 72, is hanging up her phone after 23 years of faithful service to the organisation, and she said she had enjoyed her time working with "great people".

Lifeline is a non-profit organisation providing local communities with 24/7 support and it has eight branches around the country.

Thomas, of New Plymouth, was left partially blind in both eyes after an operation in 1988 and was unable to continue her job as an officer manager with Pak'n Save.

"My daughter saw a sign in the paper for a Lifeline training course," Thomas said.

"She said ‘well, at least you can talk, mum' and I went along and that was the start of it."


For the past two decades, Thomas has set aside four hours on a Tuesday, ready to lend a ear to those who needed it the most.

Victims of sexual abuse and sufferers of loneliness and depression were among those who made use of the service.

There were also regular callers who just wanted someone to talk to, Thomas said.

Volunteering with Lifeline has a way of making one "more grounded", she said.

"Unlike a lot of the callers, I have never known what it's like to be hungry or cold or to be abused, physically or mentally."

Thomas said the public often perceived the helpline to be a suicide line.

"But it's not. People ring because they need to talk to somebody."

One does not always forget the stories, she said.

"But I can switch off. I guess you wouldn't carry on if you couldn't."

She was 49 when she joined Lifeline and time has "really just gone", she said.

There were also 60 telephone counsellors when she started but numbers have since dwindled to 13.

Taranaki Daily News