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Celebrating the Super Listeners Who Quietly & Humbly Transform Lives

Words | Dr Jeannine Goh

5-minute read

It’s a typical rainy day in Manchester, the type of grey skies that lean heavy on your mood, and that incessant rain that makes leaving the warm, cosy house so hard. The Monastery is opening up to the public for the day. A candle is lit (as it is every day in the great nave), the bustle of the café opening wafts pleasantly around, and our big-hearted front-of-house manager, Chris, jokes cheerily with staff arriving for the day’s work.

David’s Story

The roar of a motorbike is heard in the car park and David, one of our volunteer listeners, has arrived for his client. For two years David has volunteered every week for The Sanctuary’s Listening Service, here at our modern-day Monastery.

Retired David lives in Chorley, so it is not quick journey, especially in the rain. Yet for two years and despite an initial commitment of only 6 months, David never misses a session. One of our most experienced Listeners, David is now known as a Super Listener. He has gifted the most sessions to the service, and with no obligation, he continues to volunteer. With equal measures of curiosity and gratitude we ask David what keeps him Listening?

“I feel that when I carry out a listening session, sometimes people have a problem, that has such an easy solution. You reassure them & show them their strengths & it makes such a difference. All I’ve done is be with them for an hour & they go out reassured. I have done so little but their uplift is significant. Not always, sometimes people are deeply in difficult circumstances that are ongoing. This is more difficult and needs continued visits. It’s so rewarding when somebody leaves the room & their head is in a better place.” – David

The Listening Service has many clients who book on to the service who are feeling overwhelmed, and often ‘in a mess’. As David says, the Listener themself sometimes says very little, yet the client leaves knowing exactly what they need and with clarity. It’s a kind of off-loading and emptying, but that is only one aspect.

We are very proud that our Listeners are trained by our pioneering trauma-informed approach (using the IFS model for those who know it!) to be grounded in their compassionate, calm and curious self, and this leads to a reciprocal healing. In this exchange, learning and self-knowledge is gained by both the Listener and the client.

After two years and over 1500 free FTF listening and counselling sessions ran by The Sanctuary, we have learnt a lot, and the impact we’ve seen is remarkable.

Fenia’s Story

Fenia, another Super Listener who was, like David, our first cohort of volunteers echoes the depth of this reciprocal learning..

“I have often experienced a mirroring effect that can be very powerful. It helps me with my personal development, self-awareness and shadow work. By listening to others, it puts things in perspective for me and I learn more about life too. It helps me and gets me used to get out of my ego, to be present. Listening to others is a great way to become a better person with better intra and interpersonal skills for sure.” – Fenia

Over the two years, the Listening Service has seen many clients. The waiting lists for mental health services benefit, lives are changed and transformations and positivity spread across the city. The feedback from all our clients and Listeners makes my own commitment, as Co-Director of the service, to be ever more fulfilling as we consistently see extraordinary things happen.

Allison’s Story

Take one of Fenia’s more recent clients, Allison Angel. Allison arrived overwhelmed and in a challenging place but felt incredible clarity after the session. Allison was so blown away by the care and compassion of Fenia and ‘this incredible service’. She wanted to know more. Allison discovered the heart-felt but powerful vision at the core of the service and crucially, had experienced its impact for herself.

Allison Angel, far right, with our latest, wonderful team of volunteer Listeners

Allison could not believe something so simple, yet so powerful existed. After experiencing the transformative power of Listening, Allison has not looked back and is now the co-director of The Sanctuary! She is helping me to develop the service as a centre of excellence, one that promotes the power of Listening as a revolutionary practice, and one that we believe is set to transform our communities and our city.

This is all thanks to Fenia, who continues to be passionate about the service as well as being a talented, warm-hearted yoga teacher, who will be starting her own yoga class at The Monastery soon (watch this space!)

Olga’s Story

We have two more Super Listeners who have been with us since the very beginning. One is Olga, who continues to volunteer out of the kindness of her big heart. Olga works full time outside of her volunteer Listener role and has two beautiful sons and a busy family life, yet on a Sunday, Olga still finds the time to bear witness to those in need and lend a compassionate ear. We asked Olga what keeps her listening?

“It is the help I am giving to clients. I can feel a weight on their shoulder being removed after the session. I love to experience their feeling of not being alone and not being judged. I like the share their feeling of calm and peace while we are in the session. And the most important thing is…I love to make a difference to somebody’s life just for listening to them for one or two hours.” – Olga

Lois’ Story

Last but certainly not least, is our lovely Lois, another beautiful Super Listener. Lois has been volunteering with The Monastery way before the Listening Service began, and from when The Monastery was first restored. Lois is a corner stone of the service and her contributions, wisdom and warmth and skill as a Listener run deep.

Recently, the father of one of Lois’ clients ran the Manchester 10k marathon and raised over £840 for The Monastery! This was to say thank you to our lovely Lois, who had worked with a young woman struggling with mental distress; and totally transformed her life. We are seeing this level of impact frequently with this simple but deeply profound intervention.

“Being a Listener with The Sanctuary at The Monastery is such a humbling and rewarding experience. It takes so little, from one human being to another, to give so much. And in return, I am rewarded tenfold. The beautiful quote from Saint Francis of Assisi says it all, “for it is in giving that we receive”…the true essence and values of The Monastery and The Sanctuary alike.” – Lois

Lois sums up so beautifully the sentiment of both the history of the building (The now deconsecrated building that was once a Franciscan friary) and our compassionate Listening Service. We are slowly and one by one, changing and transforming lives. It might sound a little corny, but at the heart of the service really are these big hearts, simplicity, and a lot of love, something that is so often missing from the lives of many in our big, busy, beautiful city.

This service is creating a warm light that burns brightly in each of our listeners, transfers to the client who then takes this to their families and homes. We believe the simple process of just listening and sharing some love, kindness and warmth has the potential to light up the whole city.

What’s Next for the Super Listeners?

Firstly, we’re very proud to say that our Super Listeners have all been awarded scholarships to become Health Coaches with the Active Health Group. This is in honour of and in gratitude for their big hearts and commitment. We at The Sanctuary have realised how powerful our training is and we have carefully captured our pioneering training into an online course called Self Mastery and The Art of Deep Listening.

Would You Like to Become a Community Listener?

We are planning to gift 1000 people this transformational course for a hugely subsidised, nominal fee. We want this little warm light to burn brightly, lift the spirits of the city and for Manchester to become the ‘City that Listens.’ If Listener training with the Monastery appeals to you, please email

Our new group of 8 shining, bright, volunteer Listeners start their new positions in February 2024 and are poised waiting to listen to you.

Our hearts are full and every day we are touched by a new story of hope and inspiration.

For more information or to access the Listening Service, please click here