Buderim chat seat volunteer Carol Hastings (seated) speaks with a few visitors.
Buderim chat seat volunteer Carol Hastings (seated) speaks with a few visitors.

How having a chat has connected a Coast community

Pulling up a seat and having a chat seems like such a simple thing to do but when you're struggling or feeling lonely it's perhaps one of the most daunting.

A group of volunteers in Buderim are working hard to make it less so.

The suicide prevention working group has installed a "happy to chat seat" on the main street of Buderim to encourage community conversations.

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Suicide Prevention in Communities Program co-ordinator Merilyn Keene said the concept started in the UK.

"Police decided to do something about elderly people and loneliness, so it was a police initiative that was adopted enthusiastically by a town and it went from there," she said.

"We were talking at the beginning of last year about projects and the one they decided on was a chat seat and a men's event.

"We started with a small group and we used a trial to fine tune what we were going to do and then we had a training session."

Buderim's chat seat has taken off with more volunteers needed to lend an ear.
Buderim's chat seat has taken off with more volunteers needed to lend an ear.

Ms Keene said despite only running for the past four months the initiative's popularity had taken off.

"It's a very warm community project and beneficial," Ms Keene said.

"Buderim people think it's a good concept.

She said volunteers regularly asked passers-by what they thought of the project.

"They say 'it's lovely, what a kind thing to do' and then maybe when they come back next time they might have a conversation - it's a gradual process," Ms Keene said.

"Then there are people that are very lonely and they drop in every day if they are going past."

Buderim's chat seat has taken off with more volunteers needed to lend an ear.
Buderim's chat seat has taken off with more volunteers needed to lend an ear.

Ms Keene said there were benefits for all involved not just those dropping in for a chat.

"Volunteer hosts talk about having to get out of their comfort zone and reach out themselves and some of them are acquiring skills to do that," she said.

"We've got some people who naturally have the capacity to reach in to people and other people are really being pushed out of their comfort zone.

She said there were eight volunteers who did two hours a week, one day a fortnight.

"We've got a bit of a gap at present we need about three volunteers," she said.

"Which will cover off on a couple of days where we have gaps and if we could get more blokes in that would be lovely.

"We are looking for people who are local to Buderim or surrounds, we like them to be friendly, to realise that they're not there to fix people up or to give advice - they're mostly there to listen, that's a big one."

The chat seat runs for two hours from 9am to 11am between Monday and Friday.

For more information you can email Ms Keene at merilyn@calcomm.org.au.


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