Today there are around 21,000 men and women around the UK who give up an hour or two a week and quite literally save lives, or at least make people lives a little more bearable. It all started with a young curate’s experience, one of his first experiences was the funeral of a young girl who mistook her first menstrual cycle as a sexually transmitted infection and because of having noone to talk to took her own life.
Chad Varah founded The Samaritans in 1952 a few years after that incident had moved, now a vicar in London, he wanted to reach out to the suicidal and those in despair, he asked for volunteers from his congregation and the rest is history. People volunteered in their droves and what is now known simply as Samaritans and Befrienders Worldwide was born.
The sister organisations have no political or religious ethos and because of that can work across borders and continents. I am proud to say that I spent two years as a Samaritan volunteer, the training over 6 weekends as it was then consisted of learning to listen, to listen properly and to be comfortable with silence and asking that most difficult question, whether the person on the phone was feeling suicidal or desperate.
Samaritans come from all walks of life, the long held belief that they were well off middle age women couldn’t be further from the reality. There is a samaritan on hand to take telephone call and emails 24 hours a day, 365 days a year and all giving their time freely, no pay but lots of reward. I remember being on duty when Princess Diana was killed and taking a call from a regular caller with sever mental health problems, on that night I learned a lesson that has stayed with me ever since, to listen and to believe.
Today Samaritan’s aren’t as behind closed doors as they once were, you are as likely to see Samaritan’s in prisons listening to the desperate as you are at seeing their presence at festivals and large gatherings, the visibility is two fold, to support and listen to those in need and to recruit more volunteers. It is incredible that an organisation which offers nothing continues to attract people who give up their time, or maybe its not.
What I got from being a Samaritan volunteer far outweighs what I gave to the cause, learning to really listen and to know when to shut up and enable a silence are gifts that have helped me right through my life and of course there’s nothing like the buzz of feeling we have helped another human being in times of despair.
It’s important to know that 80% of the people who contacted Samaritan’s either by calling in at one of their centres, calling on the telephone or emailing, did not express suicidal thoughts, more often than not they were in despair and just needed someone, a stranger to listen. We can all listen can’t we!
Today there are around 400 centres in 38 countries under the Samaritans and Befrienders Worldwide banner, they are constantly in need of support, they are one of the few charities who don’t so much need your money, but they do nedd our time, an hour or two a week, night or day can make a huge difference to someone in despair, we could need them ourselves one day.
If you need someone to listen you can contact the Samaritans free on 08457 909090 in the UK
By Email email@example.com
You can call into the one of 201 branches across the UK and Ireland
Or you can write to:Freepost RSRB-KKBY-CYJK,
PO Box 90 90,
You will receive a reply within 7 days.
If you want to volunteer goto this link http://www.samaritans.org/volunteer_interest/form
For Befrienders Wordlwide contact http://www.befrienders.org
Written in support and admiration of those who help.