Child helpline Buddy Bear has trained more volunteers to support their helpline for children in need during the pandemic.
Buddy Bear founder Pam Guneratnam says: “We reiterate the need to revive a nationwide, government-supported dedicated child-centric helpline to serve all children who need help and protection.”
“Children need access to a safe, kind and non-judgemental voice who will listen to them and we are willing to fill in that gap. Our volunteers are all trained in psychological first aid, they have been screened and their backgrounds checked by JKM, and are supervised by registered mental health professionals," says Guneratnam.
The Talian Nur system, active since 2007, was later renamed Talian Kasih and its scope expanded to include youth issues, domestic problems and social welfare, among others. The Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (Suhakam)’s children's commissioner Datuk Noor Aziah Mohd Awal recently emphasised the need for a dedicated helpline for children after the tragic report of a seven-year-old who had died from alleged abuse in the news recently.
Since the first movement control order (MCO) last year, NGOs have reported an increase in abuse and violence at home and children calling for help.
In response to the urgent need to support children who have been experiencing emotional distress during the pandemic, Kuala Lumpur-based social enterprise HumanKind launched BuddyBear last year.
Read more: Who can children call when in distress?
The HumanKind team of 35 volunteers took two weeks to develop the Buddy Bear phone service for children to call for emotional support during the first MCO in March 2020. The dedicated child helpline provides a listening ear to support children through crisis and also links them to relevant services that they may need.
This year, HumanKind has been able to train an additional 60 volunteers to support the phone line, thanks to the support of Yayasan Hasanah and the Prihatin Grant.
Read more: Are children more exposed to abuse during the Covid-19 pandemic?
Buddy Bear is currently the only dedicated child helpline nationwide and receives an average of 50 calls every month and the numbers are increasing. Volunteers speak Bahasa Malaysia, English, Mandarin and Tamil.
To speak to Buddy Bear, children (any person under the age of 18) can call 1-800-18-BEAR (2327), between the hours of 12pm to 12am, seven days a week.
Buddy Bear is also currently raising funds keep the children’s calls free and make the helpline a toll-free number.
More info at: BuddyBear Campaign
Kuala Lumpur: 03-7956 8145 (24 hours)
Ipoh: 05-547 7933 (4pm to 11pm)
Penang: 04-281 5161 (3pm to midnight)
All Women’s Action Society (AWAM)
Helpline: 03-7877 0224
Women’s Aid Organisation (WAO)
Helpline: 03-7956 3488
WhatsApp: 018-988 8058
Women’s Centre for Change (WCC) Penang
Tel: 04-228 0342
Sabah Women’s Action Resource Group