AS part of the NSPCC's major new drive to end cruelty to children, Be the FULL STOP, the charity is urging at least 1,593 people in the North to take action to stop child cruelty - one person for every child on the Child Protection Register.
In Northern Ireland, there are already over 500 people who take action by giving their time to volunteer for the NSPCC, doing everything from raising money, being a schools counsellor or young witness volunteer, to answering calls to ChildLine. One such volunteer is Hugh McAteer from Omagh who volunteers with the NSPCC independent schools counselling service.
"When I was a school principal, I had used the NSPCC's Independent Schools counselling service for my pupils, and it was highly valued. In fact, my school was one of the first to opt into the pilot scheme in the Omagh area, set up jointly by WELB and the NSPCC in 1999. Over my years as principal I tried to highlight the urgent need for such a counselling service to support pupils through difficult times in their lives. School staff, although willing, don't have the time to devote to such work, except on an ad hoc basis.
"When I retired I did a counselling certificate course at Queen's University and I'm now starting the Diploma Course which will equip me with the skills I need to counsel in a professional and sensitive manner.
"I've been a volunteer now for almost a year, attending a secondary school one day every week to see pupils individually for an agreed number of sessions. Pupils can refer themselves to me or can be referred by the school with the pupils' permission.
"I would encourage anyone with an interest in this type of work to volunteer, although it's not always easy. It can be emotionally and physically demanding, and requires a commitment to on-going training and self-reflection with an experienced supervisor. Keeping notes and files up-to-date can also be a chore!
"Volunteering has given me a challenge and a purpose to my retirement. I feel I am meeting a need in young people's lives. The young people say the counselling service has helped them and empowered them to deal with some of their problems. In other words it has made a difference. That's satisfaction enough for me."
People can join the campaign now by phoning 08000 12 12 11 or visiting www.bethefullstop.com.
People in Northern Ireland can also help by attending or organising a 'Stop for Tea' event in their local area or circle of friends. Contact the NSPCC on 028 90351135 for more information and your 'Stop for Tea' pack.